Senate hears from proponents of tougher charter-school rules in Ohio

Concerned that Ohio’s charter schools do not provide enough detail about how they spend taxpayer money, the state auditor, Ohio newspapers and a Cleveland-area charter operator urged the Senate to take action.

A Senate subcommittee continues to debate a pair of bills designed to make a major overhaul of Ohio’s much-maligned charter-school laws, which critics say have turned the state into the Wild West of charter-school operations.

The Senate version of the bill, which is more wide-ranging than the House-passed version, contains a number of recommendations from Auditor Dave Yost. He stressed on Wednesday that the nonprofit and for-profit operators who receive most of a school’s money to run day-to-day operations need to provide more detail.

The current requirement, Yost said, is very general. He proposed a more-detailed accounting of how operators spend taxpayer money.

“It’s just one piece of paper,” he said. “It does not disclose any proprietary information or disclose how the company is run. The footnote just shows how money is being spent on instruction."

The Senate bill includes Yost’s operator requirement, but the House resisted operator-disclosure provisions, arguing it did not want to impose public reporting standards on private companies.

Breakthrough Schools, a nonprofit operator that runs 10 charter schools in Cleveland and will soon run 11, offered broad support of the charter-school bills and also called for more openness.

“Of primary importance is transparency,” said John Zitzner, a founder of Breakthrough Schools. “ Students attending schools that are sponsored and operated in a transparent, responsible manner will be more likely to succeed.”

(Read more at the Dispatch)