Former Public School Leader Pleads Guilty to Attendance Fraud

In 2019 a Missouri Auditor's investigation revealed that inflated attendance numbers at St Louis Preparatory Academy resulted in overpayments totaling 1.4 million dollars over three years. Today, the school’s founder, Michael Malone, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court to three counts of wire fraud.

While the specific issue of falsified attendance reports is rare among charter public schools, no such abuse of the public trust is acceptable. "A foundational element of charter public schools is they are held to a high level of accountability and that must include accountability if laws are broken," said Executive Director, Douglas Thaman. " In the State of Missouri, over the past 10 years, there have been at a minimum of 4 cases of public school attendance fraud (district and charter). In all instances, the participants must be held accountable.

 It is important to point out that each charter public school operates independently. Each school is responsible for ensuring that their reporting and fiscal management practices are accurate and transparent. A bad action at one school is an isolated event and does not reflect on the methods of any other school.

It is also important to note that this violation of the law surfaced due to the added layer of sponsor oversight built into Missouri's charter public schools’ model. Bill Mendelsohn,  Director of  Charter Schools at the University of Missouri-St Louis and his staff identified possible issues with St. Louis College Preparatory Academy’s attendance data, immediately alerted the school's board of directors, and notified the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This action on the part of the school’s sponsor quickly led to an internal review, ultimately resulting in the state audit and closure of the school. While a school closure is troubling, it also demonstrates the type of accountability the public demands and deserves.

The accurate, transparent, and responsible reporting is necessary to building and maintaining the public's trust. Charter public schools are committed to being good stewards of public funding as they work to provide the type of high-quality schools the public deserves.

 For more information, please contact Douglas Thaman at dthaman@missouricharterschools.org