Paper: Feds gave millions to failing Ohio charters


DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- More than $4.8 million in federal stimulus money went to Ohio charter schools that have since closed and millions more went to charter schools accused of mishandling hundreds of thousands of dollars, a newspaper reported Sunday.

In Dayton, much of the more than $200,000 that went to two schools that were later shut down, New City School and Nu Bethel Center of Excellence, came a month after state audits found numerous problems, including debt, accounting errors, missing documentation for thousands of dollars in spending and unpaid employee taxes, according to the report ( ) by the Dayton Daily News.

The state ordered both schools shut down in 2010 for poor performance, part of the closure of 121 now defunct charter schools, including 21 that received stimulus funding. That list also included the Academy of Dayton, which closed after receiving $59,909 in stimulus funds, the paper said.

Four Richard Allen Academy schools in Dayton, which are still open, received $1.9 million in stimulus funds in 2009 and 2010 while the state auditor's office was investigating concerns of conflict of interest and poor documentation. State Auditor David Yost in February ordered the school repay $929,850, alleging conflicts of interest, improper payments and some cases of missing money.

Academy officials did not return calls for comment to the newspaper, which based its analysis on state audits, Ohio Department of Education data, and a ProPublica database of stimulus spending.

Ohio received $2.1 billion of the nearly $100 billion in stimulus funding provided nationwide. The state Education Department said it was legally required to provide charters the funding until they were officially shut down.

Charter school opponents say the dollars robbed traditional public schools of needed funds. The publicly funded, privately run schools are "an experiment that's not working," said state Rep. Clayton Luckie, a Dayton Democrat and former Dayton school board member. Dayton city schools have lost thousands of students to charter schools over the past decade.

Others say it's wrong to lump in a few badly run charter schools with the overall charter school movement, which is meant to provide alternatives to traditional public schools by freeing administrators and teachers from some regulations.

Supporters also point out that traditional public schools considered failing also received stimulus dollars.

"Maybe we ought to start closing some of them," said state Rep. Bill Coley, a Republican from Butler County in southwest Ohio.

Many charter schools that received stimulus funding and are still open are considered top-performing schools.

ISUS charter schools, with three schools in Dayton, received $667,030 in stimulus funds, and those three schools are rated excellent, the newspaper said. But the Life Skills Center in Dayton, which received $797,394, has been in academic emergency the past two years.


Information from: Dayton Daily News,