Some fixes still needed

State lawmakers are on the verge of enacting significant, much-needed reform to Ohio’s weak and ineffective system of charter-school regulation.

A strong version of House Bill 2 could be remembered as the turning point at which the legislature got serious about making charter schools a high-quality educational alternative, rather than just an opportunity for certain donors to make hay.

Unfortunately, the bill, despite a number of excellent provisions, was set back on Tuesday by an amendment that reopens a loophole through which failing charter schools for years have clung to existence. The bill as introduced had language aimed at stopping “sponsor-hopping”; that’s when a bad school with a responsible sponsor knows the sponsor is about to shut it down for its poor performance and, to avoid that fate, quickly finds another, less-ethical sponsor.

The original bill would have stopped this by requiring a poorly performing school to seek approval from the Ohio Department of Education before changing sponsors. But that provision was removed. The amendment says that ODE permission to change sponsors would be required only in a school’s first four years of operation, or if it had changed sponsors any time in the previous five years. This means that a school established longer than four years could change sponsors at will, no matter how poorly the school is performing.

That could allow a badly run charter school to continue spending tax dollars to ill-serve students for years.

If this change isn’t undone by the House before it votes on the bill, the Senate should be sure to do so.

(Read more at the Dispatch).