Schiavoni renews calls for charter school reform

LISBON – Columbiana County’s state senator has been making news lately by calling on the state legislature to reform Ohio’s charter schools system and requesting hearings on a gubernatorial appointment.

On Aug. 14, Sen. Joe Schiavoni announced he was introducing bills that would require annual state audits for charter schools and their sponsors and operators, and subject charter schools to the same public record requirements as traditional school districts.

Schiavoni, D-Boardman, who made the announcement along with Democratic state Sen. Denise Driehaus of Cincinnati, said charter schools are failing their students and taxpayers. This was after a charter school in Cincinnati closed abruptly, and the state launched an investigation into another in Dayton following allegations of child abuse and manipulation of test scores and attendance records.

“Our current laws are too weak to protect our (charter) school children and tax dollars. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away,” he said, in a news release.

In regard to the other issue, Schiavoni has asked Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled Senate to hold hearings on Rick Hodges, who Gov. John Kasich appointed director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Hodges is a former director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission and Republican state representative, and state law requires the health department director to either be a medical doctor or have significant experience in the public health field. He has worked in the health field, as a marketing director for a county health center and director of community hospitals.

Schiavoni questioned whether that is enough.

“The Department of Health engages in critical work for the state ranging from the provision of health care, to waste water management, to response to disease outbreak. Although the clinical staff at the department and those recently appointed are eminently qualified, the director is ultimately responsible for the actions of the department. Given this, it is imperative that full and open hearings be held to determine what if any qualifications Mr. Hodges possesses to warrant his selection for this position,” he wrote in the letter to the Republican Senate and committee leaders.

No hearing was scheduled.