Since July 13, 2018, one individual has filed 243 complaints against charter schools throughout the state of Arizona. Every third day, on average, retired middle school principal Jim Hall filed a complaint against schools that range from high-performing networks that are ranked nationally for their academic performance—like BASIS schools—to single-site schools like Arizona Autism Charter School and Sequoia Deaf School. At least two of the charter schools Hall filed against are currently offering their online learning platforms to students not enrolled at their schools at no charge, in an effort to assist students in their studies through the end of this difficult school year.
Hall, also a regular attendee at board meetings of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, introduces himself as the founder of a “group” he calls “Arizonans for Charter School Accountability.” The organization, a term used very loosely here, was born after Hall felt slighted following a charter school’s board meeting. This so-called “group” has a website, but it does not actually exist as an entity. There is no filing with the Arizona Corporation Commission. I’ve taken the liberty of reserving it for myself; it’s got a certain ring to it.
While the records request I received does not include the purpose for each of his complaints, there’s plenty of reason to believe they include accusations of financial mismanagement by the charter schools—the common assertion used by Hall in public meetings. His apparent aversion to financial mismanagement in schools may be slightly off-target, however. We’re all familiar with misspending in government, but waste isn’t limited to state agencies. School districts, subdivisions of the state themselves, are no strangers to fraud, waste, and abuse. Arizona, like many other states across the country, has seen its share of school district scandals. Relevant to the issue is the fact that Hall has no educational background, professional training or certifications in accounting, let alone education accounting.
A series of Hall’s complaints were filed against the clients of one particular Arizona-based CPA who specializes in charter school finance. After filing complaints against the schools themselves, Hall began filing complaints with Arizona’s State Board of Accountancy against the CPA who contracted his services with those few schools. The State Board of Accountancy put the accountant under investigation, an action which prevents CPAs from providing services to charter schools, under current state regulations. As a result, this accountant (a sole breadwinner with five children) was effectively jobless for over a year—85% of his clients were charter schools. Hall, who filed the complaints, suffers no consequences.
Any waste in government is too much; it comes at our own expense, after all. The extreme amount of waste that Jim Hall, and other ax-grinders like him, cause within our public agencies is almost impossible to quantify. His inability to overcome a moment of impoliteness by a charter school board member has ruined the livelihood of at least one falsely-accused accountant, and wasted countless hours of work by numerous individuals at our state agencies. This is one kind of hero we don’t need.