WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate begins debate on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Charter School Accountability Act today that would strengthen charter school accountability and transparency, prevent fraud, and increase community involvement. Ohio is home to nearly 400 taxpayer-funded charter schools that educate approximately 123,000 students.
“We owe it to children and taxpayers to ensure that education provided in our classrooms - whether they be in public, private, or charter schools - is effective and sound,” Brown said. “While most educators at charter schools are working hard to meet the needs of students, the lack of oversight has allowed problems of fraud and abuse to fester at some institutions. By strengthening charter school accountability and transparency, and increasing community involvement we can prevent fraud and ensure all of Ohio’s children receive the education they deserve.”
Specifically, Brown’s Charter School Accountability Act would:
- Improve accountability by strengthening transparency and disclosure measures for charter schools. It would require both independent financial audits and public disclosures about important financial information, like charter documents, performance agreements between the school and its authorizer, the school’s program and mission, student discipline policies and processes, and annual student and teacher attrition rates. The bill also requires disaggregated data on information on disciplinary actions, student recruitment, admission, and retention.
- Increase state educational agencies’ charter school accountability measures. The legislation would require that states have performance standards for charter school authorizers, data on charter school closures, denials of renewals, and canceled charters. States must also have the authority to suspend or revoke a charter school’s authorization based on poor performance or violating policies. Additionally, states must have clear conflict of interest laws for school employees and establish fiduciary duties for officers, directors, managers, and employees of charter schools.
- Requires charter schools to have parent and community buy-in. The legislation would ensure charter schools solicit and consider input from parents and community members on how to implement and operate charter schools. This bill also requires that entity’s receiving federal funds submit plans and descriptions detailing community and parent involvement in the planning, opening, and operation of charter schools. For traditional public schools applying to convert to charter school status, the bill requires that there is demonstrated support of the conversion by two-thirds of the families attending the school and two-thirds of the school staff. It also calls for charter school authorizers to provide impact statements and reports on the role charter schools have on the overall schools system and provide information on student enrollment trends.
Brown’s bill is supported by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
“Every student, regardless of zip code, deserves a great education that inspires natural curiosity, imagination and desire to learn,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “Unfortunately, some bad actors in the charter school industry fail to abide by the standards of transparency, accountability, and community involvement that are the foundation of a quality school. The Charter School Accountability Act would ensure that all schools receiving public dollars abide by common sense standards that all other taxpayer-funded schools have been rightfully held to for decades. With this amendment, Senator Brown stands up for students, parents, schools, educators, and common sense.”
“Charters were envisioned to be incubators of innovation working alongside neighborhood public schools,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “But they have largely failed to live up to that vision because many lack accountability, transparency, or a voice for teachers and parents. We applaud Senator Brown’s efforts to correct these deficits and to improve authorizing standards, financial disclosure, and community involvement in charter schools. His amendment to ECAA would be a significant step forward toward reclaiming the original promise of charter schools – one that benefits all students.”
According to a report from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), students at Ohio’s charter schools lose 43 days of math instruction and 14 days of reading instruction compared with traditional public schools in the state. Brown’s legislation would increase the amount of accountability, transparency, and community involvement in Ohio’s charter schools and help ensure a high-quality education for every child. Brown plans to offer this legislation as an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act currently being debated before the Senate.