Charters are Accountable, Independent Private Schools are Not

March 14, 2024

Phoenix —On Monday, the State Board for Charter Schools, a public body, voted unanimously to issue a notice of intent to revoke the charter contract for ARCHES Academy, currently located in Apache Junction.

The school appears to have both academic and financial problems and recently addressed an issue with a fire marshal. This action represents the kind of responsible oversight of charter schools that serves to protect the interests of students, parents and taxpayers.

In sharp contrast, independent private schools are required to have no such oversight, even though they currently receive nearly $1 billion in state public funding. That nearly matches the state general fund support for the state university system. Public funds that support private schools come from redirected general fund dollars through tax credit donations to Student Tuition Organizations and by funds from Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA)/vouchers directly from the General Fund. Last year GCI estimates private school tax credits cost $285 million (the formal report is due by March 31) and ESA/vouchers cost $592 million, so, collectively, nearly $900 million in public support for unaccountable private schools (note: this figure includes an amount for ESA homeschooling).

The table below uses the case of ARCHES Academy to contrast charter schools (which are privately owned public schools) with private schools that operate independently with the level of oversight and accountability required.


For more information, contact:

Dave Wells, Ph.D., Research Director
602.595.1025, Ext. 2,

ARCHES Academy Concerns

If PRIVATE SCHOOL receiving State Funds
Curricular Expectations Must meet state curricular and testing requirements (ARCHES met this) While ESA participants are required to use a portion of the program funding in reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science, there are no minimum standards of academic achievement, such as reading or math proficiency. 
Oversight and Pop-in Visits Charter Board and staff conduct oversight with pop-in visits occurring at ARCHES. No curricular or financial oversight and no pop-in visits

Academic Performance


“D” rated school No academic evaluation done.
Audit The Charter Holder  failed to submit its  FY 2023 Audit by  the due date of  November 15, 2023. No public audit required. Audits are done of Student Tuition Organizations for Arizona Dept. of Revenue and Empower Scholarship Accounts for Arizona Dept. of Education, but not made publicly available. None of these cover private school expenditures.
Cash on Hand The Charter Holder’s FY 2023  Audit identified  that the Charter  Holder did not  have sufficient cash to cover its Classroom Site Fund Carryover. No oversight of cash on hand to inform parents of financial viability.
Lack of Financial Controls The Charter  Holder’s FY 2023  Audit identified that the Charter  did not have sufficient controls  in place to ensure  the bank account  was being reconciled in a timely manner. No financial controls required.
Annual Financial Report The Charter Holder did not submit their FY 2023 Annual Financial Report (“AFR”) and School Level  Reporting form to  ADE by the due  date of October 15,  2023. No annual financial reporting of how funds spent in areas like instruction required.
Posting average teacher salary The average  teacher salary information was not updated to  reflect the current  year.. No teacher salary information needs to be provided.
Parent Rights The link to the statutory handbook of parental rights was  not found posted  on the school’s website.  Private schools have much discretion to deny parent’s rights compared to public district and charter schools.
Public Records The Public Records  Request Point of  Contact  information was  not found posted  on the school’s  website. Private schools are not subject to public records requests.
Arizona residency The enrollment materials did not include a process to consistently notify parents of the requirement to submit documentary proof of Arizona residency at the time of enrollment… Recipients do need to be Arizona residents.