Great Hearts Academies leads the way in school transparency

Great Hearts Academies, a non-profit network of public charter schools, is leading the way in school transparency.

The non-profit created a first-of-its-kind website that grants parents access to all of its operational, educational, and financial information.

According to Erik Twist, Great Hearts President of Arizona, most of the information on its transparency website was already available to individuals but required them to track it down on different websites.  

“We thought it was important to make it easier for our parents, especially, to have one place to find everything they might want to know,” Twist said. “We see it as advantageous to be clear [and] absolutely transparent about those things and that it only strengthens both our brand and the trust with our families in the community.”

According to Jim Hall, founder of Arizonans for Charter School Accountability (ACSA), and a critic of what he views as an under-regulated charter sector, the Great Hearts transparency website, while a good first step, could include additional information in the future.

“The Great Hearts transparency website is a good first step in that it reports their spending, executive salaries, and general financial condition, but school board meetings and governance information has been omitted,” he said.  

Twist said that Great Hearts is sharing their website with individuals like Hall in order to create a better, more transparent platform.

So, working with policymakers to understand where they see real improvement in what we have laid out on our page and where they think there are gaps, it allows us to have a really open and honest conversation about, ultimately, what the purpose and goal of transparency in public education is,” Twist said.

Twist also believes they are providing a roadmap for future charter reforms.  

According to Hall, The Charter Board could use Great Hearts’ format to report “individual charter spending and state averages so parents can make more informed school choices.”

“At the end of the day, the most important person that should be considered when it comes to sharing information is mom and dad. They’re the ones who have to make decisions about where to have their kids educated and so, we’re always trying to think about what information [is most] relevant to mom and dad and how do we make it easier for [them] to find it, so, that they can really have a clear sense of the public school they’re considering to trust,” Twist said.

While the push for transparency has circled around charter schools, Twist believes that the issue is in the entire public education sector.

We see ourselves as not just leapfrogging the market on transparency within the charter sector but within the totality of the public education sector. We think we made it easier and more navigable and more robust than anyone in public schooling within Arizona. We’re very proud of that, we look forward to strengthening the site in the months and years ahead,” he said.

To view the transparency website, click here.  

Emily Richardson

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