© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Education

Surprise Head Count Finds Many Empty Seats At Ohio Charter Schools

dave_yost_charter_school_attendance_2016_-_chow_edit.jpg
ANDY CHOW
/
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU

The state auditor has conducted another surprise head count to find out if charter school attendance records matched the number of students actually sitting at their desks or computers.

Auditor Dave Yost has said he wants to keep tabs on charter schools and their reported attendance, since those schools get state funding based on the number of students they have enrolled and attending classes.

On one day in 2014, he ordered staffers to show up at charter schools for surprise visits to take attendance. Yost said then that those pop-ins found just about half the schools had the number of students they told the state they did.

Ohio Department of Education is among the worst- if not the worst- run state agency.

Yost’s staff did another round of surprise visits to charter schools in November. Thirty charter schools audited posted attendance rates ranging from 29 percent all the way to 99 percent. Nearly all were above 73 percent. Their traditional school counterparts have attendance rates between 75 percent and 99 percent.

But Yost is concerned about the 14 dropout recovery and prevention schools that were visited this school year -- none of them had more than half the number of students who were supposed to be in attendance.

Most troubling to Yost were the handful of schools that had attendance rates dropping to about 20 or 30 percent.

“And this is clearly indicative of -- it needs to be addressed."

Chad Aldis, with the pro-charter school group the Fordham Institute, says the state needs to set standards for these dropout schools.

chad_aldis_0.jpg
THOMAS B. FORDHAM INSTITUTE
Chad Aldis is the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy.

“If a bad one is at 20 percent, then 50 percent is knocking it out of the park. But without a standard in place we don’t know if they should be performing at 60 percent -- in which case all of them would be below average. So we do need to wrap our heads around it,” says Aldis.

Yost’s office referred three schools to the Ohio Department of Education for improperly operating as e-schools.

Yost blasts Ohio Dept. of Education
During his report, Yost made it a point to call out several problems he believes are plaguing the Ohio Department of Education, which oversees charter schools along with traditional public schools.

Yost says  the department gets bogged down by serving too many functions. Yost suggests that issues like school funding and evaluation could be handled by different departments.

“I’m in a position having been in all the departments to be able to tell you frankly that Ohio Department of Education is among the worst-, if not the worst-, run state agency in state government.”

But Yost says it’s up to the Ohio Legislature to decide if it wants to consider his suggestions to redistribute the duties of the department.