Last week a judge in Ohio took the important step of ruling against a charter management company that has long been under scrutiny. This is a positive step for Ohio and for the charter movement.
Charter schools, as well as the management companies that support them, should have transparent operations because as public school operators, we bear the responsibility of the public trust. Nearly two million children have placed their educational future in the hands of charter schools. All of us in the movement should live up to that trust.
The charter school model hinges on autonomy in exchange for accountability. This means that teachers, school leaders and business managers commit to delivering better academic results for the children we serve. In exchange for that commitment, educators are granted the freedom to innovate and operate outside some of the constraints that other public schools face.
However, this freedom means nothing if the children and families we serve don't trust charter school teachers and leaders to be the best educators -- able to lead students to new levels of academic achievement. It isn't enough for charter school professionals to have the best intentions. Charter professionals should be held to the highest standards possible, delivering academic and operational success, because nothing could be more important than the stakes we face: offering children the brightest possible future.
That's why last week's ruling by an Ohio judge to make a charter school management company, White Hat Management LLC, turn over financial records to the schools it runs is a welcome development. White Hat has long been under scrutiny for not having transparent financial operations. Communities -- including students, teachers, school leaders, authorizers and policymakers who have backed the creation of these schools -- have both the right and the responsibility to question how public dollars are being put to use. It isn't about whether White Hat should institute a for-profit business model or an academic program geared toward dropout recovery, it's about quality and transparency. White Hat should first commit to demonstrating that its operations are above reproach and should then explain its business structure and academic performance in terms of its transparent operations. This is part of what it means to be accountable. If any school -- charter or otherwise -- cannot demonstrate sound operational and academic success, it should not be allowed to remain open.
At the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), we have collaborated with charter school educators and other experts to define what a quality foundation looks like. Our recommendations are meant to lay the groundwork necessary for establishing transparency and high-standards for any charter school without hindering the school's ability to innovate on behalf of its students.
Visit www.publiccharters.org to read more on academic and operational quality for charter schools.