Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor
The school choice debate continues to rage on and at the forefront in the opposition against Ohio Governor John Kasich’s charter school funding is Mason City Schools superintendent Dr. Gail Kist-Kline.
Charter schools, institutions started by individuals or companies funded by state money, began to increase in their numbers under the administration of Ohio Governor John Kasich, who actively lobbies for student choice in what school they attend. The movement is a private sector approach to education in which businesses can create schools backed by state funding.
Despite their initial mission to provide opportunities for students in underfunded district schools, charter schools have suffered from poor oversight of taxpayer money, said Mason City Schools Public Information Officer Tracey Carson.
The Columbus Dispatch reported over $1 billion granted annually to charter schools in Ohio with about 120,000 students, yet there is not enough accountability taking place of where those funds are being allocated, according to Carson.
“Ohio’s Auditor of State, David Yost, and most recently the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio, have reviewed charter school finances and shown there is insufficient transparency about how state money is being spent by charter school operators and their affiliated companies, as well as uncovering egregious violations and shortcomings,” Carson said.
Government teacher Maria Mueller said diminishing district school funding and increasing university tuition can be in part attributed to tax dollars dedicated to charter schools.
“I definitely think public education has been harmed, and not just public schools as in public elementary and secondary schools,” Mueller said. “Universities and colleges in Ohio: their slice of the pie is getting diminished and part of that certainly can be perceived to be part of that money that’s going to charter schools. We, and they, are being negatively impacted by those dollars that could be effectively used in public schools, whether at our level or at a university level.”
In an attempt to fight the continuation of public funds being poured into charter schools, superintendent Gail Kist-Kline is an active lobbyist for the rights of district schools, according to Carson. Kist-Kline has sent letters to Ohio representative Paul Zeltwanger, utilized social media to share her opinion, and published a column about the issue in Today’s Pulse.
“To put it simply, every school in the state of Ohio that is funded by Ohio tax dollars should be held to the same standards…In a recent survey, 94 percent of the respondents said that charter schools should follow the same rules as public schools,” Kist-Kline said in a letter to Zeltwanger. “Our taxpayers want transparency and accountability for charter schools. It is disappointing to hear of the multiple failures of so many of our charter schools, schools that were created, specifically, to provide a superior alternative to failing public schools.”
In response to growing criticism, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 2 on November 1 to take effect in 90 days. The reform is designed to hold charter school sponsors more accountable for their spending, as well as prohibit poorly performing schools from opening new ones.
“While we are proud of Ohio’s high-performing charter schools, there are too many that haven’t been serving our kids with the quality they deserve,” Kasich said in a statement.
Ultimately, students should be the focal point of education, Kline said.
“All students deserve a high quality education and we need to assure that is taking place,” Kist-Kline said.
Originally published in The Chronicle on November 13, 2015.