I firmly believe in families and parents having a broad range of options when it comes to choosing the right educational setting for their sons and daughters. A major part of that equation is charter schools, which offer alternative learning environments for students and families all over the state.
There has been a need for several years in Ohio, however, to reform the way charter schools are regulated, a subject area that has been one of the top priorities in the Ohio House since I became Speaker. Last week, the House and Senate agreed on a final reform bill that I believe will benefit our state and its young people for many years to come.
One of the primary goals of House Bill 2 was to put up guardrails in places where there was potential for conflicts of interest. For instance, HB 2 prohibits any employee of a school district or educational service center (ESC) from serving on the governing authority of a charter school that is sponsored by that district or ESC.
It also prohibits sponsors from selling their goods or services to the schools they operate. The needs of a school should be met based on what is best for the school and, most importantly, the students, not by what benefits the bottom line of a sponsoring entity.
One way in which House Bill 2 increases transparency is by requiring charter school sponsors to annually report expenditures that are made for the purpose of providing oversight or technical assistance to the schools they authorize. Similarly, every person who serves on a governing board of a charter school will be required to disclose any transactions made with relatives or business associates doing business with the school.
This being an important part of the House’s “Ohio 2020 Initiative,” I am proud of the work that was done, and I give credit to everyone involved for their patience, persistence and commitment to getting it done right.
When charter schools were first opened in Ohio in 1998, there were about 15 schools that served a little more than 2,000 students. Today, 400 schools teach a student population that exceeds 120,000. Clearly, parents and families have seen the benefit to sending their children to charters. By adopting measures to increase accountability and transparency at these places of learning, I believe we are helping the high-performing schools to become even better, which will translate in the quality of instruction and learning for tomorrow’s leaders.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.