Democrats in the Ohio House and Senate pledged yesterday to introduce legislation that would require more transparency and accountability for operators and sponsors of charter schools.
Sen. Joe Schiavoni, of Boardman, and Rep. John Patrick Carney, of Columbus, said they will introduce companion bills in coming days. If approved, the legislation would provide the public with details about how privately operated charter schools spend the millions in tax dollars they receive each year.
“In 1998, there were only 15 charter schools in Ohio. Those 15 charters received $11 million in state funding. Today we spend $900 million on nearly 400 charter schools,” Schiavoni, the Senate minority leader, said at a Statehouse news conference.
“The growing problem is we don’t know how most of these taxpayer dollars are being spent.”
The legislation would require the state auditor to conduct annual audits of each charter-school operator and sponsor, reviewing only public funds for private entities. It also would require operators and sponsors to comply with public-records laws and, like traditional public schools, establish a public-records commission and public-records retention schedule.
The proposal follows a series by the Akron Beacon Journal which found that of nearly 300 charter schools contacted, fewer than 1 in 4 complied with a request for basic information, including names of school-board members and dates of board meetings.
“Some of the sponsors and operators of these charter schools systematically hide information from the public,” Schiavoni said. “Charters are supposed to follow the same public-records and sunshine laws as traditional public schools.”