When the FCI Academy abruptly closed this week, nearly 300 students and their parents were left in a lurch. Many showed up for the first day of school on Wednesday to find a notice simply posted on the front door, with no one answering the door or the many repeated phone calls of parents looking for answers. Some have even sought answers and assistance from the school’s sponsor, Education Service Center of Lake Erie West, located two hours north in Toledo, to no avail.
A parent we spoke with today expressed her frustration as she is now trying to enroll her daughter in 9th grade in another school, but is unable to get anyone from the school or the sponsor to answer her calls as she needs a copy of her daughter’s transcript and her IEP. These documents are just a small part of her daughter’s entire student record that she needs to obtain in order to get her daughter properly enrolled and you would think that a “public school” like FCI Academy would be required to provide these documents to a parent. That doesn’t appear to be the case as they are locked up inside a closed building where no one seems to want to help.
Silly us — we thought public schools were supposed to be accountable to the public, especially parents and students. This incident further emboldens the case for reforming the charter school system in Ohio to hold these schools to the same degree of accountability as other publicly-funded schools and districts.
On another note, we’re not quite sure why the building is locked down and no one seems to be working there as they have already received, according to Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Payment Reports, over $395,000 in state funding for this school year.
According to ODE, FCI Academy received a payment of $184,364.14 on July 9, followed by a payment of $211,408.11 on August 12 — barely two weeks ago. Where is that money now? The school received those payments for reportedly planning to enroll 296 students in the upcoming school year. Now that enrollment has hit ZERO, what is that money being used for if not on being responsive to parents seeking to enroll their children elsewhere?
In addition to the question of where that money has disappeared to, we’d like to know when the school districts who had to fork over that money to the school will get it back. The Columbus City School District, where over 96% of the students enrolled at FCI Academy were coming in from, was already forced to pay FCI approximately $383,000 under Ohio’s charter school funding model. Now that many of those students are likely re-enrolling in Columbus, when might the district expect to receive that money back from the state?
I’m not holding my breath.
It’s this level of complete irresponsibility on the part of Ohio’s supposedly “public” charter schools that has happened time and time again across Ohio and, because of the laws governing the location of charters, ends up disproportionately harming urban school districts and urban students.
The legislature had a chance to begin cleaning up Ohio’s charters this past Spring, but failed to get it done due to political gamesmanship. When will the legislature rank Ohio’s children and families over the politics of “school choice”?
When will charter school operators and sponsors be held to the same standards as Ohio’s true public schools?