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.”


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?

  • mvirenicus

    Outstanding post, Joseph. Never seen the issue of charter schools so neatly summarized. I had personal experience with one of these dumps when gf decided to send one of her kids to a charter school. Some of the homework assignments were so fubar I sent a letter to the principal telling her that the nuns who educated me would be rolling in their graves if they could see this shite. What's the antonym of highway? Cul-de-sac. OMFG! I kid you not. That question was on a homework assignment from a charter school teacher and that was the answer she expected. Only one example of many. Kid is now in a normal public school where at least the questions make sense.

  • Emmy

    I largely agree… would just add that the state needs to get tough on chronically underperforming district schools, too. And though I strongly support the charter concept, Ohio's laws (and the state's enforcement of them) need some major improvements; and there are models in other states we could look to. I feel like this is actually a topic that a divided legislature could probably tackle. Don't think they will, but they could.

  • Republicans can't possibly let go of this charter school concept because it goes directly to this free market fundamentalist jihad they've been waging for years. It'd be like David Letterman abandoning sarcasm. It defines them. They will go down swinging on this one and take our kids with them.

  • subliminalmessages

    This was the school who allowed someone to sign a petition and accuse me of molesting students, nevermind most of the students were calling me this anyway because the did not want to learn. The weirdest part was besides defaming my character, their stupidity could not prevent the school from being exposed to poor teaching, financial and state humiliation.

  • keyshia

    umm i went 2 chase and i left 2 months b4 it got shut downa nd it was a badd skawl omg kids was hittin teachers and the ppl runnin it was just so mean and they messed up pplz lifes

  • Smudvapor

    You really must be opened minded about all of this. If you student is at a traditional school and you find that it is not suitable to your child’s needs, you may say negative things about that school but you would not say that all tradition public schools are bad. The same can be said about charter schools. I don't argue the fact that there are some poorly run charter schools out there, but that is not all of them. It is unfair to make statements that put them all into the same light. There are many charter schools that do good things and really help the students that attend them. In addition, the argument can be made that if the tradition schools were doing the job that everyone claims they are doing, the charter school system would never have been given the opportunity to start in the first place. There is a place for both, with the proper oversight and regulation. It is not about this school or that school, it is about choice, the same as it would be for what career you would like, what business you would like to apply to for work, or what college you would like to attend.

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