The press in Ohio has noticed that charters are not a solution to the problems of urban education. There have been so many scandals that it is impossible to pretend that they are. The wonder is not that journalists have noticed but that the press in other states–and the mainstream media in New York City, Los Angeles, and D.C. has not noticed at all.


The Akron Beacon Journal wrote editorial about the latest charter scandal, once again in a virtual charter school, which is a synonym for scamming the taxpayer.


The editorial says:


When the Ohio Department of Education examined the attendance records of the Akron Digital Academy, officials found the online charter school could not back its claims. The school reported enrolling about 400 students, but it lacked the documentation to show that those students spent five hours per day on class work. Even the five hours appear inadequate, the annual total falling short of the minimum 920 hours required.

That enrollment number of 400 translates into $3 million in state money for Akron Digital. And if fewer students actually attend, let alone participate in instruction? Traditional public schools are harmed, funds that otherwise would go their way diverted to charter schools.

The most disturbing thing is, this may be part of a pattern. Consider what the state education department discovered at the Provost Academy, an online charter school in Columbus. The school received $1 million from the state for educating 162 students. When the department looked, it found just 35 full-time students. That calculated to an overpayment of $800,000 in state money.

Provost Academy must make a reimbursement. Then, factor into the equation that 39,000 students attend online charter schools in Ohio, the state putting up roughly $275 million a year. How much of that sum has been obtained through false claims?

Joe Schiavoni, the Ohio Senate minority leader and a Boardman Democrat, has responded to these revelations, first reported in the Columbus Dispatch, with proposed legislation that would move to ensure the necessary oversight and accountability. The Republican legislative majorities would do well to give the legislation the high priority it deserves.

Among other things, the measure would require online schools to keep an accurate tally of the hours each student engages in coursework. That information would be reported monthly to the state and made available to the public. Student participation logs would be checked monthly by a qualified teacher. Online school sponsors would be required to inform the state when a school failed to comply. A commission would be established to assess what it costs to operate an online charter school.

An Ohioan might ask: Didn’t state lawmakers recently enact wide-ranging improvements to the governance of charter schools? They did. It is an indicator of how Republicans at the Statehouse long neglected proper oversight of charter schools that much repair work remains.

The online charter school contingent soon pushed back. Its lobbyists have argued that to qualify for state money, the schools should be required merely to provide a computer and offer the minimum hours of instruction. Put another way, they propose to avoid accountability for whether students actually participate in learning during those hours.

What temerity, especially for schools that rank among the worst performers in the state.

That stance reinforces the need for lawmakers to enact the Schiavoni legislation. Tom Gunlock, the president of the State Board of Education, told the Dispatch in the wake of the reporting on the Provost Academy that missing a handful of students would be a mistake. To the extent of Provost? “This is criminal,” he said.