As you pointed out in your April 14 editorial “Charter members,” the lack of transparency and accountability of Ohio’s public charter schools is a problem that can no longer be ignored.
Charter schools are supposed to follow the same public-records and sunshine laws as traditional public schools. But more than 100 charter schools contacted by the Akron Beacon Journal for a recent story failed or refused to provide basic information — such as how to contact the school board or even when the board meets.
This lack of regard for transparency is deeply concerning. In my state Senate district, which includes Youngstown, we have had substantial problems with charter school oversight. One school, Eagle Heights Academy, was found to have mismanaged hundreds of thousands of dollars after it received more than $18 million from the state.
Unfortunately, we have seen similar stories across the state, including in Toledo. These failures waste taxpayer dollars and cheat students out of the educational opportunities they were promised.
I recently introduced legislation that would require the nonpublic sponsors and operators of charter schools to comply with public-records laws and establish records commissions — the same as traditional public schools. The bill also would require the state auditor to conduct annual audits of public funds given to charter sponsors and operators.
In response to recent news reports on charter schools, Gov. John Kasich said: “If you’re really not finding out where these dollars are going and how these schools are performing, you ought to have access to that, in my judgment.” That’s what my legislation would do. I encourage the governor to support it.
These changes are urgently needed to ensure that our children receive the education they deserve and that tax dollars are not misspent. It’s time to hold these schools accountable.
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