Will tough talk turn into strong oversight of charter schools?

John Kasich promised “to fix the lack of regulation on charter schools.” The governor did so as part of an appearance before the Ohio Chamber of Commerce last week. His commitment comes none too soon, the state having expanded quickly the openings for the privately operated and publicly funded schools. Unfortunately, the expansion has not been accompanied by the necessary oversight and accountability.

The state spends roughly $900 million a year on charter schools. Imagine such a sum added to the funding of traditional public schools. Many state lawmakers, mostly the Republican variety, would apply the closest scrutiny. In the case of charter schools, they have appeared so swayed by the idea that they have neglected the task of ensuring that public dollars are well spent.

In his talk to the chamber, the governor made a curious observation, insisting that “there is no excuse for people coming in here and taking advantage of anything.” He seemed to have in mind Concept Schools, a charter operation based in Chicago with schools in Ohio that are the focus of investigators. Yet the problems are not limited to outsiders. Ohioans have tarnished the idea, in particular, White Hat and other for-profit managers of charter schools. Of the 16 lowest performing networks of charter schools in Ohio in 2013, 14 were run by such for-profit firms.

In addition, these for-profit operators receive more than half of the public money flowing to charter schools.

The governor’s comments arrived in the wake of two recent analyses. One by Stanford University found that Ohio charter students received 14 fewer days of learning in reading and 43 fewer days in math compared to those in traditional public schools. It reported that of the 26 states with charter schools, just three have a lower performance rate than Ohio.

(Read more at Ohio.com)