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Don't Expect Charter Quality Improvement Any Time Soon

With the passage of HB2, the charter reform law, many might be tempted to think we'll quickly see the horrendous quality of Ohio's charter schools to rapidly improve. That won't be the case.

HB2 is written to mostly address the sponsors of the schools, and not the schools themselves. But where the law does address sponsor quality that might impact actually schools, the law is laborious in how it deals with low performers


The law required the Ohio Department of Education to develop, then annually rate charter school sponsors. But as we have seen, this is the first giant loophole the poor quality truck can drive through. ODE is already under intense pressure after it was proven it had manipulated the rating system to give sponsors much higher ratings than they deserve. Without a fair and honest accounting of a sponsors performance, the law cannot operate as many would hope - by revoking poor performing sponsors authority to manage charters.

If, and we contend it will be a big if so long as ODE is packed with charter school cronies and ideologues, we eventually get to a fair, transparent and honest rating system for charter sponsors, the law is still tilted against action. For example, the law:

Revokes the sponsorship authority of a sponsor that receives an overall rating of "ineffective" for three consecutive years, subject to an appeals hearing that is conducted by an officer appointed by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and decided by the State Board under specified deadlines. (R.C. 3314.016(B)(7)(b)(ii).)
A sponsor needs to perform poorly for 3 consecutive years, almost an entire school career for a high school student, before any meangingful action can be taken. Even at that point, ideologues at ODE can hear an appeal.

The law also has another brake applied to acting quickly. The law authorizes ODE, for the 2015-2016 school year only, to choose to not assign an overall rating to a sponsor that meets a broad range of conditions. This means that the absolute worst sponsors are likely to avoid any direct consequences until the end of the 2018-2019 school year, and even then have an avenue to appeal to potentially sympathetic ears.

You will note that it requires 3 consecutive poor ratings. Should a sponsor game the system to achieve a satisfactory rating for just one year, the whole clock will resets, and another generation of students will be harmed.

HB2 is a welcome step to improving Ohio's charter schools, and we expect the financial management of the schools to improve, but sadly and most importantly we do not expect the quality of the schools themselves to improve - though the game is now on to make it look like they are - a game ODE has already begun to play.

Corporate Ed Reforms Have Created a 400,000 Teacher Shortage

The Economic Policy Institute took a look at the number of teachers in the workforce. Turns out defunding public education, cutting pay, benefits and job security isn't attractive.
With the September data in hand, we can look at the number of teachers who are starting work or going back to school this year. The number of teachers and education staff fell dramatically during the recession, and has failed to get anywhere near its prerecession level, let alone the level that would be required to keep up with an expanding student population. Along with the dismal shortfall in public sector employment, due to the Great Recession and the ensuing austerity at all levels of government, public education jobs are still 236,000 less than they were seven years ago.

The number of teachers rose by 41,700 over the last year. While this is clearly a positive sign, adding in the number of public education jobs that should have been created just to keep up with enrollment, we are currently experiencing a 410,000 job shortfall in public education. Short sighted austerity measures have a measurable impact, hitting children in today’s classrooms.
Their graph is more startling

Something is Very Wrong With Cleveland Charter Schools

A new study by the Shanker Institute looked at teacher diversity across a number of large cities, including Cleveland. Their results were broken down between the district and charter schools. What they found is very troubling.

Since 2000, while the share of black teachers in the district has remained constant over time, the teaching population in Cleveland's charter schools has been getting dramatically whiter.

In Cleveland public schools, at the end of our study, roughly 80 percent of students were Black or Hispanic, compared with under 30 percent of teachers. Between 2000 and 2011, the proportion of Blacks in the city’s teaching force declined modestly, while the (small) share of Hispanics remained stable. In terms of population shifts, the numbers of White, Black and Hispanic teachers all decreased, but the decline was considerably larger for Black teachers, with a loss of 1 in every 3 Black teachers. The racial and ethnic composition of new hires in district schools over these years generally increased diversity. Charter schools, in contrast, hired more teachers than district schools, but their hiring patterns had a negative impact on citywide teacher diversity. Concurrently, sector leaving patterns in district schools generally had little impact on teacher diversity either way, while charter school leavers were disproportionately Black, relative to their shares of the teacher workforce.
Here is the startling graph

What could possibly account for this? Why are Clevelands charter school teachers getting whiter? This seems like yet another serious administrative problem being exhibited by charter schools.

Charter Scandal Proves Necessity of Directly Funding Choice Schools

Charter schools in Ohio are widely known to be the most corrupt and failing in the country - a national joke. If they aren't failing students by the tens of thousands every year, they are embezzling, defrauding and wasting tax payers money by the millions. Over the last 2 years, according to, charter schools have accounted for 70 percent of misspent tax dollars in Ohio.

It was hoped that charter school reform legislation would begin to fix this mess, but powerful, monied charter lobbyists halted the legislation at the last minute.

Even if the reform legislation had of passed, it is likely that the reforms would be ineffective at creating accountable, higher performing schools. The reforms rely upon addressing weaknesses not in the schools, but in their authorizers. The recent ODE data scrubbing scandal, whereby authorizers grades became artificially inflated by not including the lowest performing schools data in their grade, demonstrates the level of protection the charter industry currently enjoys - and why this reform approach is certain to fail.

This protection was highlighted by emails within ODE

Hansen responded: “Well, I’d like to first feel secure in being able to do what I do for just charters. The last thing I want is for the process to end up sinking our little bit of autonomy from the edu-blob because someone sees it and thinks that someone would oppose what we’re trying to do.”

Hansen wrote in an email to a Cleveland charter-school leader on Dec. 26, 2013, saying, “I’ve been at (the Ohio Department of Education) for just 3 months but have a personal goal of protecting, if not growing, the autonomy to which charters are entitled and need in order to succeed.”

Responding to her complaint about a negative designation, he added that he’s hoping “we can get the people involved to spend more time on traditional public schools and leave charters alone.”
Pretty clear then, that effective charter reform is not going to happen under the current ODE leadership, or with this legislature, that has benefited to the tune of millions of dollars from the charter school lobby.

The damage charters are doing to public education in the state is further exasperated by the billion dollars it is siphoning away from higher performing traditional schools - with a further $290 million also being taken from local tax payers without their approval, or likely knowledge.

Instead of directly funding charters, the state subtracts the money from the bottom line for traditional districts, depending on where a student lives. There are growing calls to change that system, which traditional schools say unfairly punishes them and their local taxpayers.

About two weeks ago, the Worthington Board of Education passed a resolution urging the state to fund charter schools directly. The vote followed a presentation by the district treasurer showing huge losses from charter deductions.

Charter schools have a place in education, Marc Schare, board vice president, told his colleagues, but the funding structure is “devastating to our district.”

“What people need to understand is the state is essentially using their local district as a middleman, and there’s no reason for it,” Schare said later, arguing that the system lacks transparency and is misleading.
Given these sets of facts and circumstances, THE ONLY clear way forward to fixing charter schools in Ohio so that students get a quality education and tax payers get the services they pay for, is for the state to directly fund charter schools.

It would then become apparent to everyone which schools truly deserved the financial support, and which were not worth the public investment. Those charter schools should also be able to request, via local election, local tax monies - and voters would be free to decide if that investment was something they wished to pursue.

This would finally put charter schools and traditional schools on an equal footing, something that could only benefit students and their communities.

Charter School Operators Admit They Didn't Know What They Were Doing

In a report about the closing of another Ohio charter school, the full depth of the problem this sector suffers from is blindingly obvious
Posey, who started the FCI Academy Charter School a decade ago said he doesn't want to throw in the towel. FCI 's sponsor is the Toledo-based Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, which suspended the school's charter late last month. "They didn't say they were going to shut us down, they said they were gonna put us on probation," said Posey. "We started this from scratch, we had no particular knowledge of running a school, that's why we had a sponsor."
First, why is a Columbus school sponsored by a Toledo authorizer? How can the Toledo ESC reasonably monitor a school from half a state away?

Second, and most shocking, how on earth does a sponsor think it is wise to authorize people to open a school when they literally have no experience, or know what they are doing?

Parents are entrusting their children to dozens of schools that are operating like this. These failing charter schools are not the only problem, the authorizers who are allowing them to open and operate may be even more negligent.

Large Majorities of Americans Reject Corporate Education Reform Policies

It's hard not to read the The 47th annual PDK/Gallup poll of the publics attitude toward public schools, and not come away with the conclusion that the public has rejected the corporate education reform paradigm in significant numbers.

Respondents overwhelmingly indicate that there is far too much emphasis on standardized testing, and that test scores are not the best way to judge schools, or teachers.

The public is also opposed to the use of student test scores in the evaluation of teachers

The "College and Career Ready" slogan isn't being embraced
A strong majority (about eight in 10) of Americans believe how engaged students are with their classwork and their level of hope for the future are very important for measuring the effectiveness of the public schools in their community.

Fewer rated the percentage of graduates attending college and getting a job right after high school as very important. Testing came in last as a measure of effectiveness with just 14% of public school parents rating test scores as very important, making it the last in the list of options.

64% of Americans and a similar proportion of public school parents said there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in the public schools in their community with just 7% believing there’s not enough.

When asked what ideas were most important for improving public schools in their community from a list of five options, testing ranked last in importance once again
So what do Americans think the biggest problems facing schools are, if it's not the nonsense corporate reformers have been saying it is? The number one problems schools face is financing.

Time and time again citizens tell politicians they want to see investment in education, and yet politicians in recent years have spent more time listening to anti-tax groups like StudentsFirst, and profiteers like Ohio's charter school magnates.
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