GOP legislators give pass to our troubled charter schools


Republicans in Ohio are so heavily invested politically in the charter-school industry that not even national ridicule can sway the GOP-dominated General Assembly to enact reforms to the system.

After much public discussion and chest pounding by Republicans that the day of reckoning had arrived for charter schools, the Legislature broke for its summer recess without passing urgently needed legislation .

What happened? The official word from House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, was that the primary co-sponsors of House Bill 2, Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, and Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, could not agree on amendments added by the Senate.

“One agrees, one doesn’t agree,” Rosenberger said. “I’m not going to push forward something that we have some mix-up here in the House bill between the [amendments made by the Senate]. We need to take some time to work that out with the two bill sponsors before we go too much farther.”

Pardon our cynicism, but given that the same party controls the House and the Senate, the so-called disagreements seem a little too convenient.

$1 billion industry

After all, the charter school industry in Ohio is big business. The $1 billion system came into being 18 years ago, but the promise of a bright academic future for many of Ohio’s children stuck in failing public schools has not been kept.

And yet, the 390 charter schools that boast an enrollment of more than 120,000 students have escaped the oversight and scrutiny applied to public schools.

It was only a matter a time before the national media got wind of the disaster that’s the charter-school system in Ohio and began to investigate.

Thus, on June 12, The Washington Post published a story headlined, “Troubled Ohio charter schools have become a joke – literally.”

We made reference to the piece in an editorial last month in which we praised Ohio Auditor David Yost, a Republican, for refusing to turn a blind eye to the misuse and waste of public dollars. Yost has rubbed members of his party the wrong way for insisting that it is his job to ensure the proper expenditure of public dollars.

Unfortunately, his is a voice in the GOP wilderness when it comes to the charter school industry. That’s why we weren’t impressed when Republicans in the General Assembly talked about adding oversight and requirements that would affect charter-school sponsors, governing boards and operators.

Yes, there was legislation designed to block poorly performing charters from switching sponsors and poorly performing sponsors from sponsoring other charter locations. But with the investment of millions of dollars in Ohio’s political process by charter operators and others, only the most na Øve would believe that any legislation aimed at policing the system would be adopted without a fight.

The Senate added the oversight provisions to House Bill 2.

Thus today, the General Assembly is on recess and charter reform has been shelved – for now, according to Legislative leaders.

“We’re probably going to need some time during the summer, a little bit of a time in the fall,” said Speaker Rosenberger. “We’ll see what happens, maybe by the end of the year.”

DON’T EXPECT MUCH

Don’t hold your breath for any major legislation coming out of Columbus. The charter-school industry secured a major victory when House Bill 2 was derailed, and it isn’t likely to rest on its laurels.

There will be a financial pressure brought to bear on Republican legislators to kill any legislation aimed at instituting real oversight and standards.

With Ohio Gov. John Kasich poised to enter the crowded Republican race for president later this month, GOP leaders in the state will be determined to avoid any controversies that could affect the party’s fund-raising efforts.

And so, another legislative session will pass without any substantive changes to the failed experiment that is the charter- school system.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a dozen times: Charter schools should be governed by the same rules, regulations and standards that are applied to public schools.

We have long advocated a takeover of the system by the Ohio Department of Education to ensure that private operators aren’t squandering taxpayer dollars.

In the end, however, it’s all about the academic success of the students – and there isn’t much of that going on today in the charter schools.

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