Charter school legislation proposed

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An area lawmaker said Thursday he will introduce a bill this fall aimed at ensuring charter schools are required to meet the same benchmarks as their public school counterparts.

Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Canfield, said his legislation would boost the accountability of the charter schools and would require the schools and their sponsors to submit to yearly audits.

The measure would push private schools to meet the same licensing evaluations and pay scales as local public schools.

The bill also would prohibit parents from transferring their children to a charter school that’s performing worse than the public school where they had been enrolled. He claims hundreds did that last year in the Austintown and Boardman districts.

“In 2012-2013 school year, they’ve lost almost $1 million of state dollars going to those charter schools, of kids that are leaving the public school to go to a charter school, and in almost every single situation, that charter school is ranked lower than the public school they were leaving,” Schiavoni said

Schiavoni said the measure would require families to be given state report cards for both the district they would be leaving and the charter school they are considering so parents can make an informed decision before they move.

“I see a lot of good charter schools, but I see a lot of bad ones too,” Schiavoni said. “And you can tell instantly when you walk in what the situation is, whether or not the operator is somebody who is truly trying to take care of kids and give them a better option or if they’re just trying to make money.”

The measure, which also would require charter schools to conform to public records laws and prohibit charter schools from using tax dollars for advertising, recruiting or promotional materials, should be taken up by the Senate Education Commission later this month.

The legislation follows the recent introduction of Ohio’s new school report card system that grades both public and charter schools on the same scale. A recent study by the Columbus Dispatch found that 87 percent of the state’s charter school students attend a school that has either a D or an F in meeting state performance standards.

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