Charter schools need to be accountable

Should you call your local public school district in Ohio and ask for a financial report or information on high school graduation rates, it would be provided. State law requires that.

But ask a Buckeye State charter school for the same thing and you may be told, “Sorry, state law doesn’t compel us to give you that.”

When state legislators authorized charter schools receiving taxpayers’ money several years ago, they jumped on a bandwagon. Most states have charter school provisions and, in general, there is reason to believe they have improved the quality of education available to many students.

But in Ohio, the bandwagon quickly began running out of control. Very little accountability is required of charter schools.

That has been a concern for at least two to three years. Now, finally, legislators seem ready to put new charter school rules in place.

State Auditor Dave Yost, who has served as something of a whistleblower regarding shortcomings at both public and private schools, wants the public to know more about how charter schools spend money. The current general financial reporting requirement should be replaced by one including more detail, he believes.

Some charter school operators agree more accountability is needed. Their officials’ attitude is that they have nothing to hide. And why should they? Unless charter schools have something about which to brag, are they really fulfilling the purpose for which they were authorized?

No doubt some charter school operators will balk at providing details on operation of their private businesses. Were their institutions entirely private establishments, that might have merit.

But they are not. They get government funding and should have to account for how it is spent and how effectively it is used. Those who reject that premise certainly are free to mark “return to sender” on the envelopes in which their checks from Columbus arrive.



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