(Before heading off to San Diego, I sent the following to The Plain Dealer, which added it to their online blog page.)
Many of the problems separating House and Senate negotiators working on a new budget is a difference on the funding of Ohio’s charter schools. The House budget imposes new oversight requirements on charter schools and, perhaps anticipating that many will not be able to meet those requirements, provides less money for them. Those increased oversight provisions for Ohio’s charter schools are appropriate and necessary.
As a teachers’ union leader in two local school districts, I spent many years advocating for my members, and those activities frequently led me into conflicts with boards of education. And as a taxpayer in my home district, I have sometimes found it necessary to contact members of my local board of education regarding their public decisions. So although I have never served as a member of a local school board, I have had reason both as an employee and as a taxpayer to criticize the work done by members of local boards of education.
That said, I believe that their governance by elected boards of education is an important characteristic of public school districts and offers an example of the ways in which charter schools should be held more accountable. Many of the issues for which charter schools are sometimes criticized would be eliminated if the law required them to operate as public entities, and specifically, operating under the same open-meeting provisions as public boards of education.
One of the reasons for the creation of Ohio’s charter schools back in the nineties was the perceived need for schools that could innovate without excessive governmental interference. As worthy as this idea was, most voters want charter schools to be held accountable to the public in general and not just to the tiny community of families who avail themselves of their services. Because they are spending public dollars, charter schools should be subject to the same accountability provisions as traditional public schools. Their reporting to a locally-elected board of education conducting its business in public would be an important way to bring transparency and accountability to the operation of these schools.
Those that can’t operate accountably shouldn’t be allowed to remain in operation.