Category Archives: News Brew

For Nonprofit Hospitals Who Sue Patients, New Rules

Nonprofit hospitals get big tax breaks for providing care for patients who can’t afford it. Under new IRS rules these hospitals must take extra steps to inform poor patients they may qualify for financial assistance.

Hospitals that don't take these steps before suing patients could face the ultimate penalty of losing their tax-exempt status. That sounds clear enough. But the first catch is that the IRS does not have a history of aggressive enforcement.

Last month, ProPublica and NPR detailed how one nonprofit hospital in Missouri sued thousands of lower income workers who couldn't pay their bills, then seized their wages, all while enjoying a big break on its taxes.

Since then, the IRS has released long-awaited rules designed to address such aggressive debt collection against the poor. Largely because these new rules fill a void — there were hardly any rules at all — patient advocates agree they are a major step forward.

Even so, they have easily exploitable gaps. It remains up to each hospital, for example, to decide which patients the new rules should apply to. And because the rules only apply to hospitals that have been granted tax-exempt status by the IRS, they don't apply to for-profit hospitals or most public hospitals. ProPublica reported last month that public hospitals can be even more aggressive in collecting debt than nonprofits.

Most hospitals in the U.S. are charitable organizations. They don't pay taxes because they are supposed to be a key part of the safety net for the nation's poor patients. In theory, patients who aren't covered by Medicaid and can't afford insurance — or who are underinsured and can't afford their out-of-pocket costs — can receive necessary care from a nonprofit hospital without facing financial ruin. Each hospital is required to offer services to lower-income patients at a reduced cost and to have a financial assistance policy that states who qualifies for aid, known as "charity care."

But while hospitals are required to have this policy, there have been very few rules on how they publicize it or how they treat patients who qualify. That's where the new rules, which go into effect in 2016, will make the biggest difference. The rules were required as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

At Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, the hospital featured in our story, many patients had been sued despite apparently qualifying for financial assistance. In interviews, patients either didn't know the hospital had charity care or wrongly believed they didn't qualify.

Under the new rules, all nonprofit hospitals will be required to post their financial assistance policies on their websites and offer a written, "plain language summary" of them to patients when they're in the hospital. If patients don't apply for assistance or pay their bills, then the hospitals are required to send at least one more summary of the policy, along with mentioning it on billing statements.

And if hospitals plan to sue patients over unpaid bills, they must attempt to verbally tell the patients about their policies, as well as send notices that they are planning to sue and that the patients may qualify for financial assistance.

Hospitals that don't take these steps before suing patients could face the ultimate penalty of losing their tax-exempt status.

That sounds clear enough. But the first catch is that the IRS does not have a history of aggressive enforcement.

"That's always been the problem with the charitable hospital rules," said Corey Davis, an attorney with the National Health Law Program, a nonprofit patient advocacy organization. "The IRS doesn't enforce them and nobody else can enforce them."

The second catch is that hospitals are still responsible for setting their own financial assistance policies, and these protections are only helpful to patients who qualify for help.

"There's all sorts of discretion because [hospitals] just have to have a policy," said Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center. The rules don't set a baseline for the type of assistance hospitals must provide, she said.

A hospital could limit aid to uninsured patients with income below the federal poverty line — $11,670 for a single person with no dependents.  A hospital could also restrict aid to uninsured patients, excluding patients with bare-bones insurance policies who might face huge out-of-pocket payments.

For patients excluded by the policy, all these protections would be effectively moot. Even those covered by the policy might receive some reduction on cost, but still find themselves pursued over the outstanding balance.

The hospital industry's reaction to the new rules has been muted. A spokeswoman for the American Hospital Association said it had no comment. But best practices for the industry, set by the Healthcare Financial Management Association, urge hospitals to take steps beyond the new rules to ensure patients eligible for financial assistance aren't the target of lawsuits. For example, as we noted in our story, some hospitals automatically identify some patients as eligible without them having to apply.

Jessica Curtis, an attorney with Community Catalyst, a national nonprofit consumer organization, joined other advocates in stressing that the new rules were welcome. But, as before, she said, there will be large variation among hospitals in how generously they treat lower-income patients. "It will come down to: How seriously does the hospital take this issue?" she said.

 

This article republished via ProPublica via CC license .ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.


 

Feature photo via   Flickr.com/ 401(K) 2012


 

NYPD Officers Used Banned Chokeholds—and Did So with Impunity, Review Finds

2014-12-13 15.07.17
'The fact that several of the subject officers... used chokeholds as a first act of physical force and in response to mere verbal confrontation is particularly alarming,' NYPD inspector general report reads

 

The first report from the New York Police Department Inspector General's office, issued Monday, reveals an "alarming" lack of transparency and consistency regarding how and when officers use prohibited chokeholds—and to what extent they are held accountable for such use of force.
 
The investigation, triggered by Eric Garner's death and the ensuing public outrage, looked at 10 cases where the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) determined that NYPD officers used chokeholds and recommended disciplinary action. The Garner case was not included in the analysis because it's still subject to an internal investigation.
 
"Even this limited review of the ten most recent substantiated chokehold cases revealed that certain policy changes should be made," the report (pdf) reads.
 
According to a press release (pdf), the investigation "found a concerning disconnect in determining discipline, communication road-blocks between agencies in the review of use-of-force complaints, and questions regarding the effectiveness of officer training."
 
The New York public radio station WNYC reports:

The office reviewed 10 cases from 2009 through 2014 where the NYPD used a banned chokehold. In six of those cases where the Civilian Compliant Review Board recommended disciplinary action, then-Commissioner Ray Kelly rejected those recommendations all six times.
"We really don't know why the police commissioner came out with a different result, a lesser result than the CCRB recommended," NYPD Inspector General Philip Eure told WNYC. "That sort of thing undermines confidence."

The Daily News described one such incident: "On Valentine's Day 2008 in the Bronx, two witnesses backed up a complainant's charge that while he was arguing with officers investigating a domestic violence call involving his neighbor, a cop placed his hands around the complainant's neck and squeezed his Adam's apple. CCRB recommended departmental charges; Commissioner Kelly approved a much lesser punishment—the loss of five vacation days."
 
Moving forward, the 45-page report recommends that the police commissioner's disciplinary decisions are "reasoned, transparent, and in writing, particularly when they depart from the recommendations of CCRB."
 
What's more, the review notes: "While the substantiated use of prohibited chokeholds by members of NYPD in any context is troubling, the fact that several of the subject officers in the ten cases reviewed by OIG-NYPD used chokeholds as a first act of physical force and in response to mere verbal confrontation is particularly alarming. Rather than using communication skills and approved tactics to de-escalate tense encounters with members of the community, these officers immediately turned to a prohibited and dangerous physical act to try to control the situation."
 
While the report was quick to point out that "observations in these ten cases do not present evidence of a widespread problem of officers resorting too quickly to force," it adds that the inspector general's office "intends to examine a broader sample of cases in which officers used force in encounters with the public in order to ascertain whether police officers are escalating encounters and using force too quickly as a systemic matter."
 
The report acknowledges that the investigation raised more questions than it answered. Among those:

  • Was NYPD’s handling of these ten substantiated chokehold cases representative of how NYPD treats the majority of use-of-force cases substantiated by CCRB?
  • What, if anything, does the fact that DAO and the Police Commissioner rejected CCRB’s disciplinary recommendations in each of these chokehold cases reveal about the disciplinary process for use-of-force cases more generally? Does CCRB view use-of-force offenses too harshly or too one-dimensionally? Does NYPD...take too lenient an approach toward these cases?
  • Do the different approaches by which CCRB and NYPD evaluate use-of-force cases present inconsistencies, inefficiencies, or other systemic issues that erode public confidence in NYPD’s system of accountability?

 
According to a cover letter written by the city's Department of Investigation commissioner Mark Peters, the inspector general's office will in the future examine how the NYPD handles low-level summonses, how it interacts with people with mental illness, and its post-9/11 strategy of surveilling certain religious and political groups.
 
Civil liberties groups agree that more work remains to be done.
 
"It’s important that the city is finally looking at its failure to discipline officers who have engaged in misconduct, but that review should not be limited to chokeholds," New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman told Common Dreams in an emailed statement. "Year after year the Police Department routinely fails to discipline officers in cases in which misconduct has been substantiated, and we hope the Inspector General will soon be taking those into account as well."


 

‘Sun Is Still Out and Everything’ After Arrests Drop 2/3rds in NYC

photo by Joi Ito/cc/wikimedia

If angered NYPD can so dramatically reduce arrests and citations, many are suggesting it could offer an ironic path to better policing nationwide


 

Earlier this week, responding to initial news reports that the New York Police Department had drastically reduced the number of arrests and citations following the murder of two of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos on December 20, New York-based journalist and radio host Allison Kilkenny took to Twitter and noted, "Arrests plummeted 66% but I just looked outside and nothing is on fire and the sun is still out and everything. Weird."
What has been largely reported as a "virtual work stoppage" by NYPD officers as a result of a perceived lack of support coming from the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the internal turmoil between City Hall and the police stemmed from the interplay between ongoing street protests in the city that followed the non-indictment of Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the choking death of Eric Garner and public comments made by the mayor in support of those protests. When the man who killed officers Liu and Ramos appeared cite revenge for Garner's death as part of his motivation, many officers—including union heads and leaders of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association—quickly put the blame on de Blasio for creating what they called an "anti-police" atmosphere.
Though the public debate over the relationship between City Hall and the NYPD has seemingly started to cool, many people are now looking at the "work stoppage" itself—which reportedly resulted in drastic reductions in arrests, citations, and even parking tickets—as rather positive evidence that a city with less arrests may be something to celebrate, not criticize.
Writing for Rolling Stone on Wednesday, journalist Matt Taibbi described the situation in the city as "surreal," but noted positively that, "In an alternate universe, the New York Police might have just solved the national community-policing controversy."
In his article, Taibbi explores that if the police protest was done for "enlightened reasons"—as opposed to what he described as "the last salvo of an ongoing and increasingly vicious culture-war mess that is showing no signs of abating"—there would be something wonderful about living in a city that called on officers to prioritize building-up community members instead of finding ways to put officers "in the position of having to make up for budget shortfalls" by issuing unnecessary fines and citations to people who can barely afford to make ends meet in the first place.
"If I were a police officer, I'd hate to be taking money from people all day long," Taibbi writes. "Christ, that's worse than being a dentist. So under normal circumstances, this slowdown wouldn't just make sense, it would be heroic.  Unfortunately, this protest is not about police refusing to shake people down for money on principle."
But as Matt Ford asks in a new piece for The Atlantic, the stoppage—whatever its motivation—still raises this key question: "If the NYPD can safely cut arrests by two-thirds, why haven't they done it before?"
The "human implications" of that question, he continues, are not insignificant, especially for those most impacted by aggressive forms of policing. He writes:

Fewer arrests for minor crimes logically means fewer people behind bars for minor crimes. Poorer would-be defendants benefit the most; three-quarters of those sitting in New York jails are only there because they can't afford bail. Fewer New Yorkers will also be sent to Rikers Island, where endemic brutality against inmates has led to resignations, arrests, and an imminent federal civil-rights intervention over the past six months. A brush with the American criminal-justice system can be toxic for someone's socioeconomic and physical health.
The NYPD might benefit from fewer unnecessary arrests, too. Tensions between the mayor and the police unions originally intensified after a grand jury failed to indict a NYPD officer for the chokehold death of Eric Garner during an arrest earlier this year. Garner's arrest wasn't for murder or arson or bank robbery, but on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes—hardly the most serious of crimes. Maybe the NYPD's new "absolutely necessary" standard for arrests would have produced a less tragic outcome for Garner then. Maybe it will for future Eric Garners too.

Concluding his assessment, Taibbi describes what he thinks are the two issues that are central to what's happening in New York City and their relevance to a much broader conversation about race, policing, and other public policy questions for the nation as a whole. He writes:

One is an ongoing bitter argument about race and blame that won't be resolved in this country anytime soon, if ever. Dig a millimeter under the surface of the Garner case, Ferguson, the Liu-Ramos murders, and you'll find vicious race-soaked debates about who's to blame for urban poverty, black crime, police violence, immigration, overloaded prisons and a dozen other nightmare issues.
But the other thing is a highly specific debate over a very resolvable controversy not about police as people, but about how police are deployed. Most people, and police most of all, agree that the best use of police officers is police work. They shouldn't be collecting backdoor taxes because politicians are too cowardly to raise them, and they shouldn't be pre-emptively busting people in poor neighborhoods because voters don't have the patience to figure out some other way to deal with our dying cities.

However, what Taibbi ultimately laments is that because the work stoppage, in his opinion, represents a self-interested gesture by the NYPD it will likely have little, if any, long-term impact.
Instead of shining a light on the broader issues he mentioned, Taibbi says, it will unfortunately be "just more fodder for our ongoing hate-a-thon" that plays out on cable news and elsewhere.
Sardonically, Taibbi signed off, "Happy New Year, America."


 

NY Official Warns About Charter Schools — Gets Ignored

cash money

Add another voice to those warning about the lack of financial oversight for charter schools. One of New York state's top fiscal monitors told ProPublica that audits by his office have found "practices that are questionable at best, illegal at worst" at some charter schools.

Pete Grannis, New York State's First Deputy Comptroller, contacted ProPublica after reading our story last week about how some charter schools have turned over nearly all their public funds and significant control to private, often for-profit firms that handle their day-to-day operations. The arrangements can limit the ability of auditors and charter-school regulators to follow how public money is spent 2013 especially when the firms refuse to divulge financial details when asked.

Such setups are a real problem, Grannis said. And the way he sees it, there's a very simple solution. As a condition for agreeing to approve a new charter school or renew an existing one, charter regulators could require schools and their management companies to agree to provide any and all financial records related to the school.

"Clearly, the need for fiscal oversight of charter schools has intensified," he wrote in a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. "Put schools on notice that relevant financial records cannot be shielded from oversight bodies of state and local governmental entities."

It's a plea that Grannis has made before. Last year, he sent a similar letter to the state's major charter-school regulators 2013 New York City's Department of Education, the New York State Education Department, and the State University of New York.

He never heard back from any of them. "No response whatsoever," Grannis said. Not even, he added, a "'Thank you for your letter, we'll look into it.' That would have been the normal bureaucratic response."

We contacted all three of these agencies and the mayor's office for comment. None of them got back to us.

The charter-school debate in New York, as elsewhere, is politically fraught. De Blasio's cautious stance on charters has put him at odds with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose financial backers include some big-dollar charter-school supporters. The state comptroller's office has faced repeated lawsuits from charter groups and operators challenging its authority to audit charter schools.

To Grannis, though, his efforts aren't about politics. His office is "agnostic on charters," as he put it. His office also audits the finances of traditional public-school districts, he pointed out.

"We're the fiscal monitors. We watch over the use or misuse of public funds," Grannis said. "This isn't meant to be anti-charter. Our job is not to be pro or anti."

Grannis has not yet gotten a response from the mayor's office about the letter he sent last week.

As to the charter-school regulators who got his letter the year before? He's still puzzled why they wouldn't be more interested in a possible fix, or why the charter regulators never bothered to respond.

"I honestly don't know," Grannis said. He said he's going to send another round of letters to them.


 

This article was originally published via ProPublica.

Related coverage: Read about how some charter schools "sweep" nearly all their public dollars directly into private firms, or our piece on how a chain of charter schools is channeling millions of public education dollars to for-profit companies controlled by the schools' founder.

If you have information about charter schools and their profits or oversight 2014 or any other tips 2014 email us at charters@propublica.org.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

 

As NYPD Union Vows ‘Wartime Policing,’ Questions Of ‘Have We Learned Nothing?’

NYPD logo
A declaration by the New York Police Department Union that it will engage in "wartime policing" in response to Saturday's killing of two city law enforcement officers has raised alarm among protesters and civil rights advocates, who ask: "Have we learned nothing?"
A statement released Saturday by the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association—the union for the NYPD—reads, "The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a 'wartime' police department. We will act accordingly."
Steven Thrasher, writing for the Guardian, responds, "Wartime? These are the marching orders to the 35,000 armed members of the biggest police department in the United States. This is the message now sent to protesters around the nation who have been finding novel and peaceful forms of expression to resist oppression—who have been protesting in reaction to police violence, not causing it."
Meanwhile, Pat Lynch, president of the PBA, made the unverified claim at a press conference on Saturday that ongoing protests and mobilizations are to blame for the killing of the police officers, stating, "There is blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it shouldn't be tolerated."
But Ferguson Action, a broad, Ferguson, Missouri-based coalition behind mass organized response to police killings and violence, declared in a statement, "It is irresponsible to draw connections between this movement and the actions of a troubled man who took the lives of these officers and attempted to take the life of his ex-partner, before ultimately taking his own," referring to reports that the gunman shot a woman in Maryland prior to the incident in New York.
"Today’s events are a tragedy in their own right," the statement continued. "To conflate them with the brave activism of millions of people across the country is nothing short of cheap political punditry."
New York-based Communities United for Police Reform agrees. The campaign stated, "As the details of today’s shootings continue to come to light, there are people who would seek to exploit this tragedy and use it to condemn the growing national movement to end police violence and discriminatory policing. Attempts to link today’s tragic events with a movement that holds justice, dignity and respect for all as its core values are cheap political punditry, and dangerous in their divisiveness."
 #BlackLivesMatter, which describes itself as "a national grassroots and social media driven movement at the heart of much of the recent mobilizations against police violence," said in a statement"Our hearts grieve with New York, a community already reeling from the losses of Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, Kimani Gray, Akai Gurley, Islan Nettles and many more. An eye for an eye is not our vision of justice, and we who have taken to the streets seeking justice and liberation know that we need deep transformation to correct the larger institutional problems of racial profiling, abuse, and violence."
The statement continues:

At the heart of our movement work is a deep and profound love for our people, and we are rooted in the belief that Black people in the U.S. must reassert our right to live be well in a country where our lives have been deemed valueless. Together, we champion a complete transformation of the ways we see and relate to one another.   
Now is our moment to advance a dramatic overhaul of policing practices. Now is the time to direct more resources into community mental health services and practices. Now is a moment for empathy and deep listening. Now is the time to end violence against women and trans people. Now is our moment to come together to end state violence. 
"Our movement, grown from the love for our people and for all people, will continue to advance our vision of justice for all of us.  Let’s hold each other close as we work together to end violence in our communities—once and for all.

PHOTOS: New Yorkers Rage Against Racist, Violent Cops

i matter i cant breathe millions march nyc dec 13 afternnoon washingston square park

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers joined in MillionsMarchNYC, a powerful and angry rally against generations of police racism, violence and impunity.

In the wake of yet another wave of unpunished murder by local police, the long-standing rage against the blatant apartheid of the American justice system flowed into the streets, locking down traffic, organizing dozens of die-ins, and ultimately marching some 20 miles, over 12 hours, from Financial District to the Pink Houses in Brooklyn, where Akai Gurley was recently killed. Instead of calling for an ambulance, the cop who shot Gurley texted his union rep, apparently to ask for advice.

Escaping both police violence and well-documented kettling tactics, hundreds of New Yorkers eventually joined the local community in grieving for yet another victim of police brutality, culminating in an angry and somber die-in in front of the 75th precinct in Brooklyn.

Below are just some of the amazing, powerful and emotional scenes from yesterday.

 

 

As the Daily News recently reported, over the last 15 years, out of 179 cases where the NYPD killed, only 3 officers were ever indicted. Only one cop was ever convicted (and still, he never served a day in jail).

Although police-worshipers contend that cops have to kill for their own protection, economist Doug Henwood recently noted that according to the Bureeau of Labor Statistics' own data, "being a farmer is twice as dangerous [as being a cop]. Logging is nine times as dangerous; fishing, seven times; mining, more than four times; truck driving, two times. "


 

(all photos by Manny Jalonschi )

When Charter Schools Are Nonprofit in Name Only

the profits of charter schools are often hidden through non-profit filters

 

This post has been updated to include a response from National Heritage Academies.

A couple of years ago, auditors looked at the books of a charter school in Buffalo, New York, and were taken aback by what they found. Like all charter schools, Buffalo United Charter School is funded with taxpayer dollars. The school is also a nonprofit. But as the New York State auditors wrote, Buffalo United was sending " virtually all of the School's revenues" directly to a for-profit company hired to handle its day-to-day operations.

Charter schools often hire companies to handle their accounting and management functions. Sometimes the companies even take the lead in hiring teachers, finding a school building, and handling school finances.

In the case of Buffalo United, the auditors found that the school board had little idea about exactly how the company 2013 a large management firm called National Heritage Academies 2013 was spending the school's money. The school's board still had to approve overall budgets, but it appeared to accept the company's numbers with few questions. The signoff was "essentially meaningless," the auditors wrote.

In the charter-school sector, this arrangement is known as a "sweeps" contract because nearly all of a school's public dollars 2013 anywhere from 95 to 100 percent 2013 is "swept" into a charter-management company.

The contracts are an example of how the charter schools sometimes cede control of public dollars to private companies that have no legal obligation to act in the best interests of the schools or taxpayers. When the agreement is with a for-profit firm like National Heritage Academies, it's also a chance for such firms to turn taxpayer money into tidy profits.

"It's really just a pass-through for for-profit entities," said Eric Hall, an attorney in Colorado Springs who specializes in work with charter schools and has come across many sweeps contracts. "In what sense is that a nonprofit endeavor? It's not."

Neither National Heritage Academies nor the Buffalo United board responded to requests for comment. (Update: NHA spokeswoman Jennifer Hoff said in an emailed statement, "Our approach relieves our partner boards of all financial, operational, and academic risks 2013 a significant burden that ultimately defeats many charter schools. Freed from burdens like fundraising, our partner boards can focus on governance and oversight 2026 NHA and its partner schools comply fully with state and federal laws, authorizer oversight requirements, and education department regulations 2013 including everything related to transparency.")

 

While relationships between charter schools and management companies have started to come under scrutiny, sweeps contracts have received little attention. Schools have agreed to such setups with both nonprofit and for-profit management companies, but it's not clear how often. Nobody appears to be keeping track.

What is clear is that it can be hard for regulators and even schools themselves to follow the money when nearly all of it goes into the accounts of a private company.

"We're not confident that sweeps contracts allow [charters schools and regulators] to fully fulfill their public functions," said Alex Medler, who leads policy and advocacy work at the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a trade group for charter regulators. The organization discourages the arrangements. "We think this is an issue that needs attention."

Officials have gotten glimpses of questionable spending by some firms using "sweeps" contracts. 

Take the case of Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School, another National Heritage Academies school. In 2012, state auditors tried to track the $10 million in public funding given to the school, only to conclude they were " unable to determine ... the extent to which the $10 million of annual public funding provided to the school was actually used to benefit its students." From what auditors could tell, the school was paying above-market rent for its building, which in turn is owned by a subsidiary of National Heritage Academies. They also had concerns about equipment charges.

The auditors couldn't ultimately tell whether the charges were reasonable because National Heritage Academies refused to share the relevant financial details. The firm also refused to provide detailed documentation for $1.6 million in costs recorded as corporate services, claiming the information was proprietary, according to the audit. The board president of Brooklyn Excelsior did not respond to our request for comment.

While the auditors in New York were disturbed by what they found, they could do little more than issue reports with advisory recommendations. "We can't audit the management company," said Brian Butry, a spokesman for New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

In Michigan, where NHA is the largest charter-school operator, state education regulators have voiced similar frustrations about the degree to which these private firms are shielded from having to answer to the public about how money is spent.

"I can't FOIA National Heritage Academies," said Casandra Ulbrich, Vice President of the Michigan State Board of Education, referring to the right to request public documents from public agencies. "I don't know who they're subcontracting with, I don't know if they're bid out. I don't know if there are any conflicts of interest. This is information we as taxpayers don't have a right to."

Last year, Ulbrich and the State Board of Education had called for more transparency to be brought to the financial dealings of charter-management firms. They specifically asked the legislature to outlaw sweeps contracts. "Unfortunately," Ulbrich said, "it fell on deaf ears."

The Internal Revenue Service has questioned some cases of sweeps contracts, but has not taken a consistent stand on whether the contracts are appropriate.

It's not just charter regulators and auditors that have reason to be wary of such setups. Some charter-school boards that signed sweeps contracts have found themselves shut out of the operations of their own schools.

In Ohio, ten charter-school boards sued their management firm, White Hat Management, in 2010 after they couldn't get answers to basic questions about why their schools' performance lagged and how the school's money was spent.

Even so, it was a challenge for the schools to take back control. After handing over the bulk of their money to White Hat for years, the schools had little money of their own, said Karen Hockstad, an attorney who's been representing the school boards in continuing litigation.

"Their hands are tied. They don't have the money to build brand new infrastructure and get new desks and books and anything else," said Hockstad. White Hat Management did not return a request for comment.

Some charter-school regulators 2013 recognizing their limited authority over charter-management companies 2013 are beginning to push back, requiring schools to get more information from management firms. Still, that hasn't stopped some management companies from putting up a fight

Regulators in the District of Columbia are seeking more legal authority over management firms after two recent scandals. The DC Public Charter School Board has asked the city council to pass legislation that would allow access to the books of management companies under certain conditions. So far, that effort has gone nowhere.

Related coverage: Read about how a chain of charter schools is channeling millions of public education dollars to for-profit companies controlled by the schools' founder.

If you have information about charter schools and their profits or oversight 2014 or any other tips 2014 email us at charters@propublica.org.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

(Featured Photo via flickr.com/Ervins Strauhmanis/CC)

‘Just Keep Fighting for What’s Right': Nationwide Protests Continue

Photo from New York City protests in the wake of the eric garner ruling in the aftermath of numerous police killings including 179 murders by the nypd in the last 15 years
"Keep on doing it, but do it in peace."
Those are the words of Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, who on Saturday in Harlem encouraged and welcomed the thousands of people taking part in ongoing marches calling for justice.
"It is just so awesome to see how the crowds were out there," USA Today reports Carr as saying. "They are out there. They are standing for my son. My heart is overflowing with joy. It’s just a gracious feeling."
Garners' widow, Esaw Garner, told the crowd: "Just keep fighting. Keep fighting for what’s right, to get justice."
Reuters reports: "Sunday was expected to see protests again in New York as well as Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and Minneapolis and dozens of other cities."
Dozes of marches and "die-ins" took place in dozens of cities on Saturday as well.
In Seattle hundreds of protesters marched to the Seattle Police Department to protest the killings of Garner and Michael Brown.
In Berkeley, California, protesters faced tear gas from police.
In Chicago protesters blocked the Eisenhower Expressway and Lake Shore Drive.
In Atlanta, hundreds of protesters issued a call to "Choke the system."
In the world of professional sport as well, a growing number of athletes are using their platform to protest the killings.
An NBC News survey meanwhile has shown a stark racial divide on public confidence in police forces.
The poll found that 47 percent of Americans say that they believe police apply different standards to blacks and whites, while 82 percent of African-American respondents did.
And while the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the officers who killed Garner and Michael Brown caused 43 percent of Americans to lose faith in the justice system, the number was 70 percent among African-Americans.
 


 
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