Charter school rules needed

Charter schools, with some taxpayer assistance, are excellent alternatives to public education in some places. They offer alternatives and often improvements to students and parents who, for whatever reason, are not getting what they need and want in public schools.

But simply handing charter schools a blank check is no good.

Several years ago, Ohio legislators eager to do all in their power to provide better schools did that, in effect. They agreed to allow charter schools with public funding. Then, for a few years, state officials hoped the experiment would work.

Ohioans quickly learned some charter schools were not providing good service for students or good stewardship of public money.

Charter schools are not held to the same accountability standards with which the public system must comply.

Taxpayers in, say, Canfield would expect answers if they called the city school district office there with questions about how money was being spent. No doubt the same is true of any public school district. State freedom of information laws require the public and press have access to school board meetings and documents, including detailed budgets and spending records.

But some charter school management companies operate under a different rulebook. Reporters in Ohio, including some student journalists, contacted 294 of the state’s 393 charter schools. Information about how taxpayers’ money is being spent was sought.

According to a published report, 114 of the schools did not even respond to the requests. Only about half the schools contacted provided part or all of the information requested.

Charter schools should be held accountable. Their students should be required to meet at least the same academic standards required of public education. Their management should be open about spending. State legislators should require it.