Defunct charter school still owes state big money
A defunct Columbus charter school owes big money to the state, two years after it was shut down by the school’s sponsor.
FCI Academy abruptly closed its doors at the beginning of the school year in 2015. Students were forced to find a new school.
The charter school’s sponsor, Lake Erie West, pulled funding and forced the school to shut down because it said FCI Academy failed to pay taxes, was a half million dollars in debt, and wasn’t reporting financial records correctly.
Pastor Edgar Posey runs the Living Faith Apostolic Church and founded the FCI Academy. He was also listed as a governing member of the board and spoke with us right after the school closed.
“We never said we were proficient in being able to run a charter school,” Posey said in 2015. “We only started a charter school 10 years ago and had no knowledge of how to do it.”
The Ohio Department of Education gave the school a “D” performance rating back then. It also provided foundation payments totally nearly $325,000 for the 2015-2016 school year. That’s the same year classes were suddenly canceled.
A new state audit by Auditor of State Dave Yost shows the money still hasn’t been paid back.
“Poor management ran this charter school aground,” Yost said. “The financial losses to taxpayers are significant, but the biggest victims here are the students and parents who had the rug pulled out from under their feet at the start of the school year.”
The audit also found the academy failed to repay $16,000 in over-funding by the Department of Education. In total, auditors found $340,770 in recovery against the FCI Academy.
FCI Academy pointed to the audit saying the money was not misspent and used for operational costs, even after the doors closed.
"I don't know how the money is owed," Posey responded Thursday. "I don't know what the money is owed for. You're asking the wrong person."
Pastor Posey said he will look into who is responsible for repaying the Ohio Department of Education but assured ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates both he and the church have nothing to do with it.
Auditors confirmed letters would have been sent by the Ohio Department of Education to those responsible for returning the money.
The Auditor of State's office confirms the treasurer of FCI Academy oversees the bank accounts, but doesn't expect to see the full amount of money paid back.
Lake Erie West, the school's sponsor, later responded to ABC 6 On Your Side Investigates requests for information in an email after the initial story aired:
"When a sponsor learns of financial and reporting issues of this nature it must act quickly, as did the Education Service Center of Lake Erie West. If the sponsor let this school operate into the school year, the mismanagement of public funds would have continued. A sponsor is not liable for the debts of the school. The school, the governing authority and/or the fiscal officer of the school are generally held liable for its debts, through the auditor and audit findings."
Records show the property and buildings are still owned by the church.
As of late February, auditors said FCI Academy had a bank balance of $86,110 and outstanding liabilities totaling $632,339, including the amount owed to the Ohio Department of Education.