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choolRecently the United States Department of Education made a unique move regarding federal funds that had been awarded to the state of Ohio for expansion of charter schools. Here is part of the story.
The summer of 2014
The Ohio State Board of Education began an investigation into the Horizon Science Academy High School in Dayton. Several former teachers at the school had brought concerns to the State Board.
• One incident that was reported had occurred at a school event. Students were having oral sex in front of some classmates and the entire situation was recorded on surveillance tape. While those involved were suspended the parents were not informed of the actual nature of the offense.
• Problems also occurred around standardized testing. Teachers were told to be sure that students had answered all of the questions on the test before turning it in. This violated directions set up by the state for standardized testing.
• Other teachers testified about empty classrooms which raised questions about the attendance that was being reported. While the school’s focus is on science and math computers were not delivered until after the school year had begun and there were no functioning science labs.
State Auditor’s Report on Seven Charters 2015
The Ohio State Auditor reported early this year that the actual attendance at the seven charters reviewed was much lower than what was reported to the state. The auditor did not suggest punishment or return of funds, but he did suggest that the schools should be submitting attendance monthly rather than yearly.
These particular schools were set up as community schools, opened to serve at-risk students who were either about to drop out or had already dropped out. This type of school usually has an attendance of about fifty percent but the schools investigated were reporting higher attendance and receiving money for students who were not actually attending.
High Ranking Education Official Manipulates Data
Ohio State Superintendent Richard Ross has confirmed that a high-ranking education official, David Hansen, manipulated state guidelines for rating schools in favor of charters. The result of Hansen’s actions was to make the charters appear to be better than they actually were. The rating system that Mr. Hansen developed hindered attempts to make charter schools more accountable. Mr. Hansen resigned his position this past summer.
U.S. Department of Education Places Restrictions on Ohio Charter Grant
Although the federal grant had already been awarded the Department of Education decided to place restrictions on the use of the money after concerns were raised by officials in Ohio who had been investigating improprieties that had occurred in a number of charter schools. As mentioned earlier in this article, the concerns included the attendance issues discovered in the State Auditor’s probe, testing issues in a particular charter school, and data manipulation by David Hansen in the state Department of Education office. Because Mr. Hansen had written the original federal grant before he resigned when his work to make certain charters appear better than they were, the U.S. DOE made the decision that no federal funds could be spent without the consent of the Department of Education. If questions from the DOE receive satisfactory answers the restrictions may be lifted.
In conclusion, it has been known for several years that there is a problem with Ohio charter schools. There have been multiple investigations including FBI probes. The data manipulation event has brought about a major concern as it was actually taking place in the Ohio Department of Education office. Charter schools are publicly funded and in many states privately operated. There is often little oversight during the school year about how money is spent and how accurately records are kept. Charters are supposed to be an alternative in approach to failing public schools, but that does not give them the right to misuse taxpayer dollars.