WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following calls led by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for strengthened accountability and transparency for Ohio’s charter schools, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) today announced it will implement Brown’s proposals and ensure additional oversight of Ohio’s charter school sector to prevent fraud. Despite reports that the Ohio Department of Education deliberately left failing grades of online charter schools out of a federal grant application, ED awarded the Ohio Department of Education a $71 million dollar grant in October 2015 to expand charter schools in Ohio. Brown, along with Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), led members of the Ohio delegation in a letter calling on ED to take many of the same steps the agency announced today in order to ensure taxpayer funds are being used to provide quality education for Ohio students.
“Too many Ohio charter schools have a record of waste, fraud, and abuse – they take in taxpayer money and shortchange our students,” Brown said. “The safeguards the U.S. Department of Education has put in place to monitor how Ohio spends this grant will greatly increase oversight, accountability, and transparency, so students receive the education they deserve.”
“I am pleased that the U.S. Department of Education listened to our calls for more accountability and transparency, and made the right decision to designate this grant as ‘high risk.’ These conditions will add more stringent oversight to make sure these funds are used appropriately. Our children are tomorrow’s doctors, entrepreneurs, builders, leaders here in Ohio, and it is our duty to give them the resources and education they deserve. No one should be lining their pockets with the money that should be going to our children’s futures. I look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Education to make sure that this grant is implemented effectively,” said Ryan.
In a letter with the Ohio delegation, Brown and Ryan urged ED to place restriction on Ohio’s grant funds to ensure that funds are only provided to charter school operators with a proven record of high performance; and, in a June 2016 letter to ED Secretary John King, Brown called on ED to appoint a special monitor to ensure accountability. ED has adopted both of these proposals. The increased oversight will also ensure no federal taxpayer dollars go to for-profit charter school operators and boost transparency regarding relationships between third party management companies. ED will require the Ohio Department of Education to:
- Hire an ED-approved independent monitor to oversee the Ohio Department of Education’s implementation of the special conditions ED has placed on its grant;
- Create a database that indicates public charter schools’ academic, operation, and financial performance;
- Submit expenditure documentation to ED for review and receive approval for all withdrawals from the grant account;
- Submit semi-annual budgets to ED for review and approval;
- Submit to ED and post publically semi-annual financial reports related to the use of the grant; and
- Form a Grant Implementation Advisory committee of parents, teachers, and community members to create transparency.
Ohio’s grant has been designated as “high-risk” and these restrictions are the most stringent ED has ever placed on a charter school grant recipient.
In July 2015, Brown introduced the Charter School Accountability Act in the U.S. Senate and in in October of 2015, Ryan introduced the Charter School Accountability Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Parts of the bill were included in the Every Child Achieves Act – legislation signed into law by the President to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Reauthorization Act. The bill would strengthen charter school accountability and transparency, prevent fraud, and increase community involvement.