A charter school in Monroe that lost its authorization to continue operating earlier this year may have used state funds to open a private daycare and pre-K school, a recent audit report says.
State Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office released the report Monday detailing the results of an investigation of Vision Academy, a charter school operated by Learning Solutions Inc.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, terminated Vision Academy’s Type 2 charter on June 30. The charter school’s remaining funds through the state Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, should have been returned to BESE, according to Purpera.
“However, we found that (Learning Solutions Inc.) used $100,000 in MFP funds to buy a certificate of deposit (CD) and then pledged the CD as collateral to obtain the line of credit to pay expenses to open Dream Academy,” stated Purpera’s Aug. 28 letter.
According to the investigative audit, Learning Solutions Inc. may have used MFP funds for Vision Academy to open a line of credit to open Dream Academy, a private daycare and pre-K school.
“As a result, the money cannot be returned to BESE, and those LSI board members and officers who agreed to the CD purchase may have violated state law and the state Constitution,” stated Purpera’s letter.
Dr. Latoya Jackson founded Vision Academy. She served as Vision Academy’s CEO/Executive Director during its time as a charter school.
The investigation began in June 2018 after Purpera’s office received complaints about suspicious activity at Vision Academy.
The investigative audit was forwarded to Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew’s office.
In an Aug. 26 email, Jackson claimed she followed the directions of her attorney.
“Although LSI operated under the direct advisement of retained counsel, we have been made aware of the error in the advisement as well as the (statute) listed which pertains to parish boards and its’ review,” her email stated.
She pledged to release the remaining funds to the Department of Education.
The rest of her email defended her work at Vision Academy and did not address the specifics unveiled in the Legislative Auditor’s investigation. For example, she cited educational gains such as empowering “indigent black boys” to obtain scholarships for a four-year college education or helping employ parents.
“We are passionate,” her email stated. “We are convinced.”
Dream Academy LLC officers include Learning Solutions Inc.; Frankie Miller, of Monroe; Charles Belton, of Monroe; Nora Bradley, of Monroe.
The Legislative Auditor’s investigation revealed a complicated series of transfers and used a flow chart to document the several transfers.
Learning Solutions Inc.’s records show the company had some $200,000, mostly in MFP funds to operate Vision Academy. Learning Solutions transferred that money to open a money market account at a different bank.
About seven weeks later, Learning Solutions used $100,000 from the money market account to buy a certificate of deposit, or CD.
Bank records show Learning Solutions authorized Jackson to buy the CD, borrow $100,000 in a revolving line of credit and use the CD as collateral for the line of credit.
“However, the Unanimous Consent was silent as to how the $100,000 revolving line of credit could be used and by whom,” stated the Legislative Auditor’s audit.
Other bank records showed Learning Solutions authorized Jackson to open a bank account for Dream Academy LLC.
“Dr. Jackson further told us that LSI’s attorney set up Dream Academy, LLC,” stated the Legislative Auditor’s audit. “LSI’s attorney confirmed that he created Dream Academy, LLC as LSI’s subsidiary, but told us he had limited discussions with Dr. Jackson regarding Dream Academy, LLC. He specifically recalled telling Dr. Jackson to keep the finances of Vision Academy separate from the finances of Dream Academy, LLC.”
Dream Academy operates in a leased building at a Monroe church.
“No rent payments were made to the Church, suggesting the repairs paid for by Dream Academy were in lieu of rent payments,” stated the Legislative Auditor’s audit. “Dr. Jackson told us the loan proceeds were used to rebuild a building for a pre-K program.”