Charter schools - private institutions operating with subsidies from the government - can provide invaluable alternatives to public education in some areas. But they have to play by the rules, too.
That has not been the case in Ohio for many years, to judge by revelations about financial mismanagement at some charter schools.
State Auditor Dave Yost's office is seeking to recover about $617,000 in money allegedly misspent at several charter schools, some in the Dayton area, as a result of decisions by their treasurer, Carl W. Shye Jr. Twenty-five findings have been issued by the auditor's office, involving three schools at which Shye was involved.
One of the most outrageous allegations against Shye is that he continued collecting state per-pupil subsidies for the Montessori Renaissance Experience school in Columbus after the institution closed.
We have been among those advocating stronger enforcement of financial rules involving charter schools for years. But we have not been alone. In 2009, then-Auditor Mary Taylor went after Shye, saying he had not accounted properly for $10 million in public funds received by charter schools for which he was treasurer. Only now, however, is stiff action being taken against him.
Schools whose finances have been handled by Shye are not alone in engaging in questionable financial management practices. Several are on the auditor's list of institutions where public funds may have been misspent.
The situation appears to be improving. Relatively few "findings" by the auditor's office involve recent financial management by charter schools. That is good - but clearly, the institutions as a group require intensive monitoring.
Public schools have to account honestly for the taxpayers' money they spend. Charter schools must be held to the same standard.