Now lawmakers should overhaul Ohio’s charter-school law

It shouldn’t be a surprise that stricter up-front standards lead to healthier charter schools, but it’s worth pointing out, nonetheless: This school year, after the Ohio Department of Education finally made clear that it won’t tolerate shoddy charter-school startups, it got a better crop of new schools.

This is a significant step, but just one of many that Ohio must make to turn its charter-school program from more than a decade of mediocrity and failure to a future of greater promise.

Only 11 new charter schools opened in Ohio for the current school year — a big drop from the 2013-14 year, when more than 50 started. More important is that halfway through the school year, all of the new ones remain open.

By this time last year, Columbus alone had seen 17 charters close. Nine of them had just opened the previous August and operated only until October or November, spending a total of $1.6 million in public money. The failures made clear that, despite numerous attempts to improve the weak oversight of charter schools in Ohio, the Wild West character of the program persisted.

The weakest link in the Ohio system has been the sponsors, sometimes called authorizers, of charter schools. The bar has been too low to be approved as an authorizer, and the law allows obvious conflicts of interest that work against the best interests of students.

(Read more at the Dispatch)

As a result, sponsors — who are supposed to vet proposed schools, hold them accountable and close them if they fail— have sometimes simply used charter schools, regardless of their quality, as a way to make money by selling them services.