WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a news conference call today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) outlined bicameral legislation that would increase the amount of accountability, transparency, and community involvement in Ohio’s charter schools and help ensure a high-quality education for every child. Ohio is home to nearly 400 taxpayer-funded charter schools that educate approximately 123,000 students.
“Our children pay the price for the mismanagement of charter schools,” Brown said. “This bill would help ensure a high-quality education for every child. By including some of these measures in the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate already sent a strong, bipartisan message that all our schools need to be held accountable—it’s time for the House to follow suit.”
“There is no doubt that Ohio’s current charter school system is a mess,” Ryan said. “Our children deserve better. I introduced the Charter School Accountability Act to increase transparency and oversight of the U.S. charter school system – the 123,000 Ohio students attending charter schools, and their parents, should never have to worry if they are getting the education they are owed. We must learn from the Ohio Department of Education’s mistakes and ensure charter school programs around the country make student success their top priority.”
Earlier this year, Brown introduced the Charter School Accountability Act – parts of which were included in the Senate-passed Every Child Achieves Act, legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Reauthorization Act. Today, Ryan introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In July, the executive director of the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Quality School Choice and the Office of Communitay Schools, resigned after admitting to deliberately leaving out failing grades of online charter schools. Despite these allegations, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) awarded the Ohio Department of Education a $71 million dollar grant this month. The legislation would strengthen oversight of these funds in order to prevent fraud and abuse and to ensure that all children who attend a charter school receive the education they deserve.
Specifically, the Charter School Accountability Act would:
· Improve accountability by strengthening transparency and disclosure measures for charter schools. It would require both independent financial audits and public disclosures about important financial information, like charter documents, performance agreements between the school and its authorizer, the school’s program and mission, student discipline policies and processes, and annual student and teacher attrition rates. The bill also requires disaggregated data on information on disciplinary actions, student recruitment, admission, and retention.
· Increase state educational agencies’ charter school accountability measures. The legislation would require that states have performance standards for charter school authorizers, data on charter school closures, denials of renewals, and canceled charters. States must also have the authority to suspend or revoke a charter school’s authorization based on poor performance or violating policies. Additionally, states must have clear conflict of interest laws for school employees and establish fiduciary duties for officers, directors, managers, and employees of charter schools.
· Require charter schools to have parent and community buy-in. The legislation would ensure charter schools solicit and consider input from parents and community members on how to implement and operate charter schools. This bill also requires that entities receiving federal funds submit plans and descriptions detailing community aand parent involvement in the planning, opening, and operation of charter schools. For traditional public schools applying to convert to charter school status, the bill requires that there is demonstrated support of the conversion by two-thirds of the families attending the school and two-thirds of the school staff. It also calls for charter school authorizers to provide impact statements and reports on the role charter schools have on the overall schools system and provide information on student enrollment trends.
The bill is supported by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
According to a report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), students at Ohio’s charter schools lose 43 days of math instruction and 14 days of reading instruction compared with traditional public schools in the state.