Officials Don’t See Charter Schools Benefiting Ohio Valley

By JOSELYN KING

Staff Writer

WHEELING — Educators and lawmakers in West Virginia and Ohio believe charter schools will become reality in both states in the near future — but they also don’t think there will be much need for them in the Ohio Valley.

They see charter schools as being more needed in urban areas and not in smaller communities where they believe public school systems are stronger.

“I would guess we may see something about charter schools come up this year,” said Delegate Roger Romine, R-Tyler, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates Education Committee. “We discussed it last year, but I don’t see that as being a big issue.

“Last year, we left it up to local boards of education to see if they wanted to have a charter school. But I don’t think smaller school systems would be interested. … They would be sponsoring two school systems, the way I see it. It is impractical.”

He doesn’t think charters would be a good fit for Northern Panhandle communities.

“Maybe in larger counties but not in my district,” Romine said. “We have an outstanding school system. My take is that they would be more beneficial in larger cities.”

Shadyside Local Schools Superintendent John Haswell said he isn’t opposed to the idea of charter schools, as parents should have a choice about where they want to send their children to school. He noted that Ohio allows open enrollment, which means parents can send their child to whatever school district they wish. This has benefited Shadyside schools, he said.

“The idea of charter schools is fine, as long as they don’t take money from public education,” he said. “In open enrollment, it’s public money going from one public school to another. But in charter schools, this is public money going to a for-profit school.”

Haswell said in the Ohio Valley, the idea of charter schools “is not a big deal at all.”

“It’s the big districts that have to deal with charter schools,” he said. “In Ohio, we have online schools. That’s a bigger problem.”

Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, said the Ohio General Assembly has had to pass legislation to deal with underperforming charter schools and some that submit inaccurate data to officials to collect more state funding than they should receive.

An Ohio Department of Education enrollment audit in 2016 found the online charter school known as the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow over-reported the number of students enrolled and participating in classes statewide, leaving questions about the amount of money it received from the state for operations. ECOT ceased operations early this year.

“It’s an ongoing problem. It’s a hot-button political issue,” Cera said.

Tyler County Schools Superintendent Robin Daquilante said she does not see charter schools becoming popular locally.

“I can see them being more of a draw for Kanawha County and those in the Eastern Panhandle,” she said regarding charter schools in the Mountain State. “And they would probably have to use some of the funding they would take away from county school districts.

“We’re fortunate to have a 100-percent levy in Tyler County. Other counties don’t have that advantage, and some are struggling to stay afloat.”

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