Here is how the charter school system works in Ohio, circa 2013:
In Ohio, two firms operate 9% of the state's charter schools and are collecting 38% of the state's charter school funding increase this year. The operators of both firms donate generously to elected Republicans....
How generously? In 2007 alone, charter school maven David Brennan and his wife gave $733,300 to Ohio Republicans.
Even though charter schools receive plenty of performance leeway under the current law, Brennan's schools have dodged shutdown by reopening with different names, with much the same staff.
William Phillis recently wrote about the original vision for charter schools and how that differs from their operation in Ohio:
The original design of charter schools as proposed many years ago by Al Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers, was to permit teachers and parents, within the bounds of a school district, to establish a creative, innovative and somewhat autonomous education entity. This entity was designed to be free from much of the school district bureaucracy and from some state regulations. In this reasonably deregulated environment, the charter school operation was, nonetheless, to be transparent, accountable and subject to public scrutiny.
One of the anticipated outcomes of the original charter school experiment was to help the leaders of public school districts improve educational opportunities by learning from the enhancements, findings and outcomes of the charter school strategies and tactics. The charter school was to be an option added to other school district choices such as magnet schools, career/tech programs, individual projects conducted by students, etc.
This original concept was hijacked by profit-motivated individuals and groups. The illegitimate wing of the charter school movement lobbied for and achieved a new generation of education entities that are largely void of public governance, transparency, and accountability. This movement has evolved into a nonpublic (except for public funds), unregulated array of entities that unfairly compete with the public common school system. Along the way, the for-profit charter school promoters have attempted to erode public confidence in traditional public schools as a ploy to expand charter schools and thus their profits.
Ohio charter school statutes require charter schools to be nonprofit entities. The for-profit education management companies have turned the prescribed nonprofit status into a sham and are turning profits at the expense of students.