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Published: Thursday, 5/5/2011

Open charters

A bill before the Ohio House doesn't do charter schools in the state any favors. Instead, the measure supported by House GOP leaders would undermine rather than strengthen credible academic options to failing public schools.

The charter-school changes are tucked into a massive budget bill the House is scheduled to vote on today. The legislation would strip accountability and oversight from publicly subsidized charter schools to an extent that even school-choice advocates are alarmed.

Legitimate charter schools present themselves as a quality-driven alternative to traditional public schools. They seek independent sponsors to oversee the start-up and operation of for-profit charters -- a requirement that the House bill would eliminate, along with a current mandate for disclosure of how charter schools spend public money.

The legislation would return responsibility for charter-school operations to the Ohio Department of Education, which lacked oversight capacity before and likely would be just as ineffective again. The legislation also would permit charter school boards to cede all rights and responsibilities to outside operators, states that once taxpayer dollars are given to an operator they are no longer considered public money, and says that whatever a charter schools purchases with public funds becomes private property.

Reducing oversight and regulation of charter schools would deny taxpayers the right to know how their money is spent. If charter schools are to perform their educational mission, they must be at least as open as traditional public schools on such matters as how they are run and how their students perform.

The legitimacy of all charter schools, and school choice in general, is eroded when accountability is removed. House members should reject the proposed changes in charter-school law.

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