Separation of church and charter school at Shekinah

The Shekinah Learning Institute, a San Antonio-based charter school operator, has to make some changes after a Texas Education Agency audit found problems with deals between the charter school districts and other entities (a church and a day care) with ties to the charter operator’s superintendent, Cheryl Washington. “Audit says charter school’s operator broke law”, Lindsay Kastner, San Antonio Express-News, August 14, 2012. Also, at a Dallas campus housed in a church, the landlord was offering chapel and bible study to charter school students. According to Shekinah’s attorney, Joseph Hoffer, that practice has stopped.

The TEA audit did not find evidence to support other allegations of church-state blurring by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. To read more about those allegations, see “Church-state watchdog claims local taxpayer-funded charter school more parochial than public”, Michael Barajas, San Antonio Current, June 20, 2012, and these reports by Americans United: “Showdown At Shekinah: A Church, A Charter School And Church-State Chicanery”, Simon Brown, Church & State, June 2012 and “Charter For Chicanery?: Texas Oversight Agency Says Shekinah Charter Schools Broke Law”, Simon Brown, Wall of Separation blog, August 14, 2012.

State Board of Education member Michael Soto, speaking to the Current, noted that the TEA has a minimal staff for supervision of charter schools. “They have to provide oversight for hundreds of schools across the state and they really don’t even have time to conduct paperwork audits, let alone to perform site visits and do the other kind of immediate oversight that we would expect in a public school system.”

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