Focus on what counts
Insights

Reporting Beyond the Numbers: Charter School Compliance

September 17, 2015
view all archive

By Christopher Hughes, CPA

An integral and, often times, required aspect of accepting any grant or funding assistance, whether by a private organization or through federal, state or local programs, is that of compliance. Compliance is especially important during this time of year when governmental entities and not-for-profit organizations are providing financial and annual reports to their funding sources. The public school and school district reporting arena is no different and it is prudent to be up to date on regulations and requirements as funding shortages across the industry make non-compliant entities a target for fines or even closure. In essence, be vigilant about being “compliant” or risk losing the already tight funding. 

It is imperative that educators, school administration, and related business managers stay informed and ahead of key compliance guidelines. For example, recent years have emphasized Pennsylvania guidelines on background checks for anyone working, or seeking employment, at a public or private school who could have potential contact with children.

Here are some key points that schools should be adhering to:

Three separate background checks are required in Pennsylvania:

  • Pennsylvania State Police Request for Criminal Records Check (Act 34)
  • Department of Public Welfare Child Abuse History Clearance (Act 151)
  • Federal Criminal History Record Information (CHRI)

In addition to the typically expected educators and administrators, other personnel that are subject to the background check requirements include:

  • Student teachers who are participating in classroom instruction, internships, clinical, or field experience.
  • Students of the school who are receiving wages for services (i.e. after-school programs, maintenance, etc.) regardless of their age.
  • Prospective employees of public and private schools, intermediate units, and area vocational/technical schools including, but not limited to, administrators, teachers, substitutes, custodians, cafeteria workers, and office employees.
  • Independent contractors and their employees including, but not limited to, bus drivers, PIAA sports officials, and construction workers.
  • Volunteers only in charter schools (23 PS 17-1724A); however, individual schools other than charter schools are permitted to adopt policies that go beyond the scope of the law (Act 114 - 24 PS 1-111).

Background check requirements do exclude employees or contractors that do not have direct contact with students. However, it is advisable to consider that it is difficult to establish how anyone working at a school would not have direct contact with students.
 
Timing requirements of the background checks – requirements for both federal and Pennsylvania:

  • Documents should not be more than one year old at the time of hire.
  • Documents should be submitted by the applicants along with the employment application.
  • Effective December 31, 2014, updated background check documentation will be required to be obtained every 36 months.
  • If, as of December 31, 2014, a current employee has background documents which are more than 36 months old, they will be required to bring them current within 12 months.

It is important to note that the applicant is responsible for obtaining their own CHRI report online. This will produce an “unofficial copy” which is presented at the time of application. Once hired, it is the responsibility of school administration to go online and print the official copy (commonly referred to as a “rap sheet”). The official copy is what is required for retention by the organization.

For more detailed information on the application process, the review and retention process, accessing reports and documents, and specific procedures followed by organizations; refer to Pennsylvania Act 114 of 2006 and Act 153 of 2014.

With another season of governmental and not-for-profit reporting underway, an awareness and focus on compliance will help to produce a consistently accurate and dependable outcome. Most importantly, it will differentiate the industry leaders.

For more information on how these changes may affect you or your organization, please contact at Kevin Ryan at 215-545-4800 or kryan@citrincooperman.com.