WILMINGTON — During its Sept. 22 board meeting, the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center’s Governing Board passed a resolution calling on Ohio’s 131st General Assembly to change state law to ensure greater accountability and transparency for Ohio charter schools.
Charter schools is nearly a billion-dollar industry in Ohio and siphons nearly $5 million annually from the school districts in Adams, Clinton, Fayette, and Highland counties that are served by the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center.
Public education is mandated by Ohio’s Constitution and publicly elected boards of education are responsible to all members of the community, including taxpayers, parents and other patrons, as well as the state. The SOESC Governing Board has called upon legislators to take a closer look at the practices under which charter schools operate.
Charter schools, also known as community schools, were originally introduced as a way to provide quality educational options to students in public schools. In Ohio, there are currently more than 120,000 students attending charter schools, at a cost of over $900 million in state funding each year. Charter schools continue to receive state funding regardless of charter school quality or performance; meanwhile, traditional public school funding has been reduced.
Charter schools, as a whole, demonstrate low academic performance when compared to traditional public schools. Charter school students are not required to meet Ohio Department of Education minimum standards in order to receive a high school diploma and are exempt from State Board of Education minimum standards, and yet they continue to be funded by state taxpayer dollars.
It has been said that Ohio has some of the weakest, if not the weakest, control and oversight regulations over the charter school industry in the nation. The alleged fraud and corruption within the charter school industry in Ohio as recently reported in the public media has made Ohio the focus of the national debate over tax dollars being given to charter schools.
The SOESC’s Governing Board has called upon Ohio’s 131st General Assembly of the state of Ohio to enact meaningful legislation that makes charter schools, their sponsors, their boards of education and education management organizations as accountable and transparent as traditional public schools districts in Ohio.
The SOESC’s Governing Board further challenges legislators to pass new legislation that require charter schools to follow the same statues and regulations as traditional public school districts; to establish a separate funding stream for charter schools that will not drain valuable resources from Ohio’s public education system; and to create an annual audit of all charter schools by the Ohio State Auditor as a condition for receiving any state funds over $10,000.
A copy of the resolution was distributed to several statewide and region legislators.
Information for this article was provided by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications for several area schools.