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Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio says that the state senate passed a charter reform bill that could help eliminate some of the scandals in that sector. He warns that if the bill goes to a conference committee, the lobbyists will eviscerate it.
A meaningful charter reform bill passed out of the Ohio Senate late last night. While there were a couple changes that would help shelter some of the ways for-profit operators spend their money, it would for the first time have the state track, rate and account for their spending. In addition, it would force charters with Fs AND Ds on the report card that have been dropped by sponsors (authorizers) to have to go to a highly rated sponsor and then have that sponsor join the school at a hearing before the Ohio Department of Education to explain why they should remain open.
In addition, it creates better transparency, forcing charters to actually put who’s on their board on the school’s website, restricting who can be on the board, bans self-dealing, and several other worthwhile provisions. It doesn’t directly deal with tightening the state’s closure law (which has only closed 24 schools in 10 years), nor does it address the greatest issue out there — funding — but it is a big step forward for our nationally ridiculed charter school sector.
Today, the Ohio House was set to send the Senate bill to a conference committee — a secretive negotiation setting — which would have allowed Mssrs. Brennan (White Hat) and Lager (ECOT) to wield their typical legislative “magic”. There was a strong push last night and this morning from me and some friends on the pro-charter and pro-public school side of the ledger to have the House vote to concur in the Senate bill, meaning it would go to the Governor’s desk as is — a far more preferable outcome.
The good news is our work paid off. There were enough Democratic and Republican votes to avoid conference committee. So Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who wants a conference committee, pulled the bill from the House Calendar — literally erasing it from members’ laptops just before they were set to take it up.
The General Assembly is in session Tuesday for the last time until September. We are ratcheting up the public pressure through media outlets and networks to try to convince the House to simply concur with the Senate bill, which while not perfect, is certain to be weakened in conference.
I am asking each of you to reach out to your media friends, your social media contacts, and to your legislators to encourage them to accept the Senate bill as is — in legislative parlance, Vote to Concur. We can’t let the same people who drove our charter school system into the ditch to undo the good work done in the Senate.
For the first time in my memory, Ohio’s charter school law has a shot of not being written primarily by those who profit from it. That is a good step for us. Please help me keep it that way.
Education Policy Fellow
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, OH 43215