The exploitation by charter school management companies in Ohio makes Florida look not quite so bad. Understanding the problems and the difficulty of correcting them is essential. Ohio citizens got the message and acted. Their legislature finally approved a strongly opposed measure to hold charter management companies more accountable. For one thing, they now have to disclose how they spend all the money that is transferred to them from the charter schools.
Many of use do not realize that school boards transfer money to a charter school non-profit organization. The non-profit is audited, but only on how they spend money. The boards of the non-profit often subcontract (between 90 to 95% of their money) to a for-profit management company to run the school. They run everything including hiring teachers, managing money, building or leasing facilities, and most often providing curriculum materials. The management company is private, so they do not have to reveal where they spend the money or how much profit they earn. For example, the for-profit company may charge the school twenty to thirty percent of its budget for facilities that actually cost much less.
How and why these management arrangements exist is complicated. One of the better explanations I have read lately is one from Jan Resseger’s blog. She explains the change in Ohio law to improve oversight of charter management companies. She also reports the latest school district take over by charters in Youngston, Ohio. Granted Youngston has problems. Equally true is that other take over efforts in inner cities have done little to improve achievement in poverty stricken areas. There is much hype, big investments, and wrenching of control from local communities. The federal government has a target list of these cities. The intention may be good; the implementation is fraught with controversy and devoid of meaningful results. There has to be a better way.
Read Jan’s account here. Do a self test. Can you fill in the names of the corresponding players in Florida?