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Charter School Critics Call For Reform In Property Spending

Arise Academy in Dayton is now closed, and former leaders of the school have been convicted of federal crimes.
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Charter school critics are calling on the state to tighten its oversight on these operations when it comes to their property costs. ProgressOhio, a consortium of liberal groups, is putting a spotlight on Imagine Schools, which manages 17 charter schools in the state. ProgressOhio’s Executive Director, Brian Rothenberg, says the schools are locking themselves into expensive building leases with SchoolHouse Finance, which is an Imagine Schools subsidiary.

“These for profit management companies have become profiteers and are taking all of this public money and they are spending over half of the public money in some cases to enrich themselves,” Rothenberg said.

Ron Adler, president of the pro-charter school group Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, says there are many variables that go into starting a charter school. The leasing agreements that follow are not always cut and dry.

“Charter schools receive no local tax dollars so every school, on average, receives about 30 percent less funding than the local district schools,” he said. Adler says policymakers should revise the law to help out with property funding.

Rothenberg, on the other hand would like lawmakers to require stiff boundaries on lease agreements to keep the contracts between 11 and 18 percent of the overall budget. a number he says is an industry standard.