When Ohio first authorized charter schools almost two decades ago, children who had been failed by traditional public schools at last had another option. Public charter schools, it was said, would be free of some of the restrictions, allowing teachers and school leaders to implement innovative approaches to learning.
Today, charter-school proponents and critics agree on one thing: The laws authorizing public charter schools in Ohio are too weak. Despite individual charter schools that have succeeded, charter schools in Ohio as a whole have not.
Ohio has an opportunity in the next two months to greatly improve its charter-school laws. Public dollars and public confidence are at stake.
A bipartisan coalition of legislators is proposing significantly stronger oversight, building on legislation proposed by Gov. John Kasich and approved by the Ohio House. Recently, the Columbus Partnership was proud to join a press conference in support of Senate Bill 148 introduced by Sens. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, and Tom Sawyer, D-Akron. Encouragingly, supporters included Democratic and Republican legislators, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Philanthropy Ohio, and KidsOhio.org.
There was strong bipartisan agreement that Ohio badly needs to improve the academic and fiscal performance of its public charter schools. Under current law, too many public charter schools have opened without having to demonstrate competence in academic leadership and financial management. That’s why many of these schools fail, while others limp along with high rates of switching schools and mediocre academic performance. Current law also permits many mediocre schools to add schools with little critical review of their capacity. And the Ohio Department of Education lacks the authority and staff to enforce charter-school laws.
(Read more at the Dispatch)