Charters: Public, Private, Both: An Auditor’s View

Dave Yost

Dave Yost

Can you make a cogent argument about which regulations are needed and which inhibit a flexible, innovative school system?  It is not an esoteric topic.  With the plethora of examples of charter school fraud, waste and abuse, we know something is not working right.  What changes should be made?

Ohio’s Auditor of State, Dave Yost, has been doing some serious thinking.  He is concerned about which aspects of charter school operations are subject to public entity law and which relate to laws governing private companies.  It makes a difference in what information is subject to public disclosure.  The criteria for ethical behavior differ as well.  Charters are both public and private.  Which set of rules apply?

This piece is not a polemic.  It is a thoughtful article by a fiscal conservative who believes in small government.  He is concerned about preserving the public interest when contracting with private entities for services like schools and prisons.  It is a thorny problem we all need to ponder.

The Columbus Dispatch article distinguishes between a case where a government entity contracts with a cleaning service and a security service.  One is clearly a private company.  If, on the other hand, a city contracts out its policing responsibility, the function is not a service.  Rather, the private police function as a government entity serving the public interest.  He asks: How do we protect the public interest while harnessing the best qualities of a mostly private-sector actor?  He examines the case of charter schools which are “a little public and a little private”.  He has no definitive answer but provides some guidelines for the following topics:

  • Information disclosure
  • Independent verification
  • Segregation of duties
  • Governing board independence

Reading the entire article is worth the time.  You can find it here.



Posted in Audits, Charter School Management, Ohio, Reform.

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