The new House Bill 2, introduced Wednesday as a charter "reform" bill, has several detailed changes in how the charter schools are managed and operated, as well as how finances are to be reported.
We discussed the bill with State Rep. Kristina Roegner, a Hudson Republican, who is co-sponsoring it.
To understand the proposed changes, remember how charter school management is organized in Ohio. Sponsors, known as authorizers in most states, help charter schools start and then oversee them. Sponsors have primary responsibility for policing schools to make sure they meet standards.
Then a governing board acts like a typical school board and decides how the school should be run. The governing bodies are required to be non-profit, but many hire for-profit companies to manage the schools.
That's the case with some of the statewide online schools and with all of the schools run by White Hat Management -- the local boards hire the companies to provide education in the schools.
In recent years, there have been complaints that sponsors or management companies control the governing boards, that schools cannot easily fire management companies and that finances of private operators are kept secret.
Roegner said she divides the changes in the bill into three categories: Accountability, transparency and responsibility, with several changes for each.
• Roegner said she hears complaints of school districts creating dropout recovery charter schools just to "off-load" struggling kids into them. Then the kids with low test scores don't drag down district report card results.
The bill calls for district-created dropout recovery schools to be included in report cards.
"If you've got students who aren't performing very well, you can't prop up your report card by offloading students."
• Contracts between schools and their sponsors, or authorizers, must include more detail about expected academic performance of the schools and details about schools facilities, rental or loan costs.
• Poor charter schools can't "hop" from one sponsor to another if a sponsor, the organization respoinsible for making sure they do a good job, cracks down on them.
"Schools that are failing...they do what's called sponsor hopping," Roegner said. "They switch from one sponsor to another."
The law requires any charter with a D or F grade for its "performance Index" score and a D or F grade on its overall value-added score showing student academic progress to receive approval from the Ohio Department of Education to change sponsors.
• To make conflicts of interest known, the bill requires members of charter school boards to disclose if they have any family members or business associates doing business with the school.
• Charter school sponsors receive three percent of a school's revenue to monitor the school, advise it and make sure it meets standards. The bill would require sponsors to report annually how it spends that money.
• Starting in 2016, the state would start reporting the performance of charter management companies or organizations, not just the results of individual schools.
Right now, for example, there is no state measure of how well all the Breakthrough charter schools in Cleveland or all the Constellation charter schools are doing as a group. While there are state report cards for individual schools, the management groups are not rated.
• The bill prohibits charter school sponsors from selling goods or services to the schools they oversee.
• Employees of school districts or vendors serving a school district may not sit on the governing board of a charter school sponsored by the district.
• Treasurers of charter schools can no longer be hired by the schools' sponsor. A school's governing board will have to do those hirings, under the bill.
(REad more at Cleveland.com)