Make charter schools more accountable

One online charter school in Ohio informed students they had to be logged onto the institution’s website for only 60 minutes a day. Another had just 16 full-time students, not the 57 it claimed. Others claim students spend the five hours a day required by the state, but cannot prove it.

For this, Ohioans are paying $275 million a year in subsidies to online charter schools. Talk about a bad deal.

State-subsidized charter schools have been a nightmare for Ohioans since they were established just a few years ago. Some requiring in-person attendance were caught lying about enrollment as well as student achievement. The state itself got caught lying in reports about charter school success, at one point telling federal officials the number of failing charters in Ohio was just one-tenth the actual figure.

State officials have worked hard to clean up their act – but clearly, they have a long road yet to travel in that regard.

Properly regulated and monitored, charter schools can be an excellent addition to a state’s public education network. But that simply has not happened in Ohio.

Critics of charters, who complain subsidies to the private institutions take money needed badly in public schools, have every right to be upset. Public schools are held to strict academic and financial rules.

Clearly, charters are not – yet, at least.

Throwing the baby out with the (very) dirty bath water by killing Ohio’s charter school program would not be a good idea.

But unless state officials force the charters to clean up their acts – or, rather, start performing instead of just acting as if they are – taxpayers may lose patience with what should have been a good idea gone terribly bad.