was through ninety-day letters that provided basic information about the financial health of the charter schools. However, in the 1997-1998 school year, the SBCS granted twenty-two charter schools waivers from the US- FRCS. This ruling dramatically decreased the role of the auditor general. For the charter schools that received a waiver from the USFRCS, the sponsoring board assumed responsibility for monitoring financial compliance. The charter school legislation was specific that the auditor general was required to notify charter school staff if they did not comply with the US- FRCS, and the staff members from the auditor general's office established a formal line of communication with the sponsoring agency through the ninety-day letters. But, if the charter school did not have to follow that accounting form, the auditor general lost jurisdiction, and the SBCS assumed responsibility for financial oversight. Whether or not the administrative staff for the sponsoring boards had the training or whether board members had the time or expertise to monitor the financial health of charter schools was unclear. However, they clearly did not have the same level of skills or time as the professionals who performed this work in the auditor general's office.
In a market-based system customers need reliable information to make sound purchase decisions. For example, an individual would be in a better position to purchase an automobile if s/he had basic safety, quality, and performance data from an independent evaluator rather than from a sales- person in a showroom. From 1995 through 1998, safety, quality, and performance information about Arizona charter schools was in short supply. Key political actors, including Senator Huppenthal, the chairman of the senate Education Committee, recognized the performance reporting problem:
To make that purchase decision something that means something, they have to have maximum information, so the things that I focused on that we don't have yet are academic productivity and quality ratings and, to a lesser extent, student quality ratings and teacher job satisfaction. If you know those things; I think you know a tremendous amount about the quality of the school. Right now, we don't have any of that data. So right now, in terms of any kind of data that's available on schools, almost all of the data that we have now in my mind is worthless, so right now we have no way of keeping score. None of the methods right now, none of the data we have right now coming in has a whole lot of value for someone making a purchase decision. ( Huppenthal interview 1998).
Test scores, however fallible, were one source of information about school performance available. Parents and sponsoring board members