Props to the Dispatch for printing this piece by Jennifer Smith Richards and Bill Bush that documents the many problems and eventual failure of another charter school in Central Ohio.

This time it’s Chase Academy for the Communication Arts – which is kind of an ironic name given the completely fucked up method they chose for communicating the news of the schools demise to parents: sending a letter home with the kids on Friday afternoon notifying parents the school would not reopen on Monday.

Schools close for any number of reasons. For example Columbus is closing down 9 schools next year. But the district informed parents a full nine months in advance and held a fair for parents to help them find a new school for their kids.

Parents of students at the Chase Academy weren’t even given 24 hours notice before the school was shut down. No preliminary warning was given. No guidance was offered to the parents. Nothing.

But, like so many other poorly run charter schools that have closed over the past few years, the story behind Chase Academy gets worse.

It turns out the school had been lying to the state for years in order to get additional funding. The school was supposed to have 189 students enrolled this year. And based on that number they received $458,000 in funding from the state starting at the beginning of the school year.

Based on first-hand accounts from teachers at the school, only 22 kids actually showed up for class on the first day of school.

And it gets even worse, if you can believe it…

It turns out the school refused “to provide legally required services for special-needs students” even though the state had given them nearly half a million dollars in funding.

And yes, it gets even worse…

The school handled its financial planning and investment strategy so poorly that this amazing situation occurred (as recounted by the parent of one of the students): “One day we came in and there was no lunch for the kids because they hadn’t paid the lunch people… they had to go down the street and buy Pop-Tarts and orange juice.”

Unbelievable.

The big problem here is not the irresponsible people who ran this school into the ground. It’s the irresponsible people who allow schools like this to operate in the first place. The real problem is Ohio’s Republicans who refuse to revise the state’s horrible charter school program, instead clinging to their belief that reduced oversight and less government involvement is better for the education system because it promotes competition and innovation. They cling to the idea that our state’s children are the same as hungry customers and that schools are like fast food restaurants.

This idea fails on so many levels.

If a restaurant makes bad food for four years, the only thing we end up with is some disappointed customers. If a school spends four years delivering a substandard education to its students then the lives of this school’s ‘customers’ are effectively fucked up. That’s not just bad for the students but it?s bad for the state as well. Poorly educated citizens are not productive and happy citizens who hold down good jobs, start new businesses or attract employers to town. They end up costing the state more money in the long run through unemployment, social services programs and even prisons.

It’s also worth mentioning that if a restaurant fails to properly manage its finances and fails then the only people who suffer are the owner and probably the bank who loaned the restaurant money. With a charter school it’s taxpayer money. Your money. Money that could have been spent actually educating these students in a real school.

How many more of these disastrous charter school stories do we have to hear before we take some action to close down the shitty ones and stop letting new ones open?

 

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