Ohio has too often looked past charter schools’ shortcomings

Carl Shye may be one of the worst examples of Ohio’s failure to monitor operations of charter schools in the state, but he’s not the only example.

Shye, a New Albany certified public accountant who has been involved in the financial operations of numerous charter schools for more than a decade has finally been called to account for some of his transgressions.

Among the schools in which Shye was involved was the former Legacy Academy for Leaders and the Arts in Youngstown, which operated inside Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church on Oak Hill Avenue. It closed at the end of 2010-2011 school year, just about a month before state Auditor Dave Yost’s office released a special audit listing $352,000 in findings for recovery. Included in that figure was a $233,923 finding against Shye, to whom Legacy had issued 90 checks for a variety of services.

Shye has been named in four other audits involving three other charter schools with combined findings of some $650,000. Yost labeled him a “serial abuser of public dollars and taxpayer trust.”

Shye functioned as a fiscal officer at the school in Youngstown, now closed; a school in Cuyahoga County, now closed, and five charter schools in Dayton, now closed.

Back in 2002, Auditor Jim Petro found that Cincinnati’s second-largest charter school, the Greater Cincinnati Community Academy, accumulated more than $1.5 million in debt and misappropriated nearly $260,000. Its treasurer, Carl Shye, was cited for $229,007 withheld from employee paychecks that was not forwarded to the School Employees Retirement System as required by law for employee pensions.

And yet, individual charter schools continued to contract with Shye for his services, successive state auditors issued findings of recovery involving Shye, and the state Department of Education looked the other way.

An end at last

Finally, Shye appears to have lost his ability to mismanage public funds at charter schools in this state.

Shye permanently surrendered his state treasurer’s license to the Ohio Department of Education after the state sent him a 12-page list of hundreds of allegations of violations of accounting rules and standards. Shye waived a hearing and authorized the board to permanently revoke his license. In a letter, he said: “This surrender is based upon allegations that in my capacity as a school treasurer I failed to adhere to the principles of the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Educators ... and other generally prevailing accounting standards.”

But that should not and likely will not be the end of the story for a man who was part of mismanaging charter schools in almost every corner of the state. State audits are forwarded to the offices of county prosecutors for further appropriate action, and we would certainly think that prosecutors in Youngstown and Dayton would be looking at Shye’s apparent pattern of abuse.

But as we have said before, charter schools, or as they are called in Ohio, community schools, have been operating for far too long with inadequate oversight of the money they spend or the academic results they produce.

These schools were billed as free-market examples of excellence that would force competing public schools to do better. Absent evidence of such success, the Legislature has blindly continued to shift millions of dollars to expand the reach of community schools, often contributing to chaos in urban public school districts.

In that regard, a rogue treasurer wreaking havoc in multiple charter schools for over a decade is but a symptom of why charter schools have not lived up to their billing in Ohio.

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