Ohio’s charter school law needs improvement, Democrats said


By Denise Dick

denise_dick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

More than $2 million from Mahoning County students goes to charter schools annually. Ohio Democrats call it a charter tax.

Ohio Democrats are running a statewide back-to-school tour and stopped Wednesday afternoon at the former South High School building on Market Street.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd; state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, John Dyce, who is running for a house seat that includes Columbiana County; state Rep. Debbie Phillips of Albany, D-94th, who is running for the state board of education; and David Pepper, Ohio Democratic Party chairman, are part of the tour.

Schiavoni believes charter schools should be subject to the same requirements as public schools.

“We still have laws that allow charter schools to be unaccountable,” he said.

Schiavoni has proposed legislation that would tighten some of the requirements for charter schools. If a student at an online school fails to log in for 10-consecutive days, the school must notify the state, the child’s parent and the home-school district.

It also would require online schools student participation information be verified by a certified teacher and that charter school promotional material include the school’s report-card grade.

Too many charter schools are failing students and aren’t accountable to taxpayers, Schiavoni said.

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is embroiled in a dispute with the state about its attendance.

Lepore-Hagan is supporting legislation in the House.

“Students do best when they are in school – even in online schools,” she said.

Phillips, who is seeking the state school board seat that includes Youngstown in its district, said the state’s charter-school industry gets “way too much money to get away with not educating kids and not being accountable to taxpayers.”

Dyce used Beaver Local Schools as an example. That Columbiana County school district loses $418,000 to charter schools – most of which don’t perform better than Beaver schools. That includes $145,000 in local tax dollars.

“Ohio is known nationally as the ‘Wild West’ of charter schools,” Dyce said.

Pepper said every level of state government – which is dominated by Republican officeholders – has failed to fix Ohio’s charter-school system. Addressing the problem will take a change in leadership, the state party chairman said.

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