Among the many items up for consideration in the Ohio House of Representatives is legislation I am sponsoring, which would strengthen the governance over charter schools in our state. House Bill 2 will improve upon the educational system here in Ohio, while preserving school choice and increasing accountability among charter schools.

Ohio has a strong tradition of supporting school options for its students, including the existence of public and private schools, career and technical education centers, dual enrollment programs and homeschooling. The growth of community, or “charter,” schools has been astounding since they first opened in Ohio in 1998. Since that time, the number of charter schools has expanded from 15 to about 400, and their growth in student population has jumped from 2,242 to more than 120,000.

As those numbers illustrate, charter schools impact a lot of students and families. For that same reason, any legislative measures that are enacted to them must be given substantial attention and care. House Bill 2 brings to the table comprehensive improvements to the state’s existing community school statutes, making important changes in state law that we believe will result in improved school performance.

The provisions in the bill center around three main categories: Responsibility, transparency and accountability.

Responsibility: One of the overarching goals of House Bill 2 is to minimize situations where conflicts of interest may be occurring, which we can all agree do not have the best interest of Ohio’s students at heart. The potential conflicts addressed by the bill include prohibiting sponsoring entities that are charged with monitoring and oversight from selling services to schools they sponsor.

Transparency: House Bill 2 also requires all governing board members of a charter school to file an annual disclosure statement that lists the names of relatives or business associates who do business with the school. In the same way, charter school sponsors would be required to report the money they have spent each year to provide technical assistance to the community schools they authorize. Making these records accessible to the public would be taking a major step forward in shining light on the activities of community schools and their sponsors.

Accountability: Finally, we must do a better job of holding charters accountable. While a sponsor-school contract already includes performance measures and benchmarks, HB 2 would require that those performance measures include report card measures. This is part of the effort to ensure that standards are applied to all schools fairly and equally.

In closing, school choice is critically important to the future health of our state and its families. In no way does House Bill 2 wish to curtail or inhibit broad educational options in Ohio. Rather, it aims to put in place measures by which the achievements of highly successful charter schools can continue serving students in a way that best meets their academic needs, while placing stricter accountability measures on the ones that are not providing young people the kinds of educational environments they deserve.

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