Charter schools now serve 123,000 Ohio students and cost the state approximately $1 billion a year. These schools are supposed to provide new and innovative approaches to educating our children but, because of mismanagement and a few bad apples, Ohio’s charter schools are becoming a national scandal.
Since 2001, state auditors have uncovered more than $27 million in improperly spent funds at charter schools in Ohio. Ohio charter schools misspend public money at almost four times the rate of other types of public sector agencies.
And in July, the executive director of the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Quality School resigned after admitting to deliberately leaving out failing grades of online charter schools.
It’s our children who pay the price for this mismanagement.
According to a report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), students at Ohio’s charter schools lose 43 days of math instruction and 14 days of reading instruction, compared with traditional public schools in the state.
Many charter schools, like Breakthrough in Cleveland and KIPP in Columbus, are thriving and offer their students a quality education. But the absence of meaningful oversight has allowed waste, fraud, and abuse to fester — particularly at online and for-profit charter schools.
That’s why we must do more to ensure these institutions are giving our children the education they deserve, and that’s why I introduced the Charter School Accountability Act.
This bill would increase accountability, transparency, and community involvement in charter schools and help ensure a high-quality education for every child.
It would require independent financial audits and give parents access to important information — information like student attrition rates, and whether transportation options are available to and from the school.
It would strengthen performance standards for charter schools, and ensure that charter schools are doing a good job of educating traditionally underserved groups like English language learners and students with disabilities.
And the bill would require that charter schools have parental and community buy-in, which we know is often key to a school’s success.
Despite the evidence of serious mismanagement, last month, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the Ohio Department of Education a $71 million grant to expand charter schools in Ohio.
Our bill would ensure that grants like this one go to funding charter school operators with a proven record of high performance — not those with a history of mismanagement.
We need to end this scandal and make sure that our tax dollars are funding our children’s education, not fraud and abuse.
Sherrod Brown is a U.S. senator for the state of Ohio.
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