Ohio has many failing charter schools. It has charter schools that gobble up public money and are never held accountable for poor results or wasted money. Apparently taxpayers and legislators in Ohio don’t care about how public money is spent and they don’t give a hoot about the quality of education.

Laura Chapman writes about the farce of charter “accountability.”

She begins by quoting something I wrote about the failure of oversight in California where hundreds of thousands of dollars go missing and no one notices until a whistle-blower blows the whistle. In Los Angeles, board member Ref Rodriguez was facing criminal charges of money laundering during his campaign. His defenders defended him, saying the money laundering was a “rookie” mistake that should be ignored. But then Ref’s own charter chain accused him of paying himself hundreds of thousands of dollars for no services. Didn’t look like a rookie mistake. At the same time, the charter industry in Los Angeles was asking the LAUSD to reduce oversight, accountability, and audits.

I wrote:

“If the charter industry had any sense of integrity, they would insist on annual audits of every charter.”

Laura Chapman wrote:

“The farce of some audits is illustrated in Ohio by The Office of School Sponsorship. This is an office within the Ohio Department of Education that serves as a direct sponsor of 23 charter schools called “community schools.” In effect these schools are under state control, and are supposed to adhere “to the highest standards of approval, oversight, and monitoring” for “academic, fiscal, and governance.”

“The Thomas B. Fordham Institute hatched the current plan for monitoring these state-sponsored charter schools. The auditors/evaluators are equipped with 300 criteria for determining whether the contract for each school should be renewed, terminated, or put into probationary status.

“In order to be “considered for contract renewal,” the Governing Authority for the school is expected to “meet or exceed” a minimum set of standards for (a) academic performance, (b) financial reporting, and (c) responsible operations/governance. But….“An inability to achieve minor elements of the standards may not prevent consideration of contract renewal.” What counts as a “minor element” leaves a lot of room for excuses, including excuses offered by the auditors–well they were late with reports, the reports were incomplete, and so forth.

“I have looked at the standards in this plan and the evaluations of 23 state sponsored charter schools. What a farce. All were approved, a few with a slap on the wrist.

“Not one of the 23 charters passed muster on academic performance. In some cases evaluators did note that the state tests and grading system had been changed (again), so the poor rating was not enough to terminate the charter. Seven charter schools were well below state averages and other charter averages. Three were given credit for a sign of “growth.” One was credited with a satisfactory rate of graduation but not academic performance.

“Ratings on financial reporting were generally OK, meaning the required paperwork was submitted. Six charter schools were cited for no information or failure to report financial data on staffing. One more was praised for “improvement.” One, in operation for two years, was judged to have “growing pains.”

“With one exception, all of these charters had satisfactory ratings on responsible operations/governance. That rating prevailed even though three had reports that lacked required transparency and timely submission of information, two had clear issues with pending investigation of ethics, one had “growing pains,” one was judged flawed but “improved,” and two were excused for problems due to an “new online system for reporting.”

“The brief mission statements offered in these evaluation reports were revealing. An “Honors Academy” for grades 6 to 11 had really bad ratings on academics but claimed to instill passion and self discipline.Inexplicably the charter school did not claim to serve students in grade 12.

“A “startup” said it was committed to building an “multigenerational community of lifelong learns (sic) and spirited citizens.”

“An “elective” academy enrolled only 31 students from Kindergarten through grade 9. In operation since 2006, it failed on academic performance and fiscal accountability including staffing reports. The school described itself as tech-rich with small classes geared to readiness for college, career, and/or military service. That must be a very tech-rich school, ten grade levels and 31 students. No wonder the staffing reports were less than acceptable.

“Readers of this blog are aware of the fiascos in Ohio charter school laws and accountability. These evaluations of charter schools are a farce. All of these charters continue to operate, in spite of having an elaborate point system for ratings. The ratings and rubrics, invented by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute mean nothing at all when it comes down to closing schools that fail to pass muster, including one franchise that began in 1999 and exanded to four by 2009.