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Ohio’s charter schools: Costlier and worse

When charter schools burst onto Ohio’s education scene about 15 years ago, proponents claimed they could educate at-risk children better and more cheaply than traditional public schools. Today, the reality is quite different — and alarming.

Charter schools cost the state more than twice as much per student as traditional schools do. And with a handful of exceptions, their academic performance is worse.

Ohio’s system of deducting charter-school funding from the amount of state aid to school districts gives charters more money than they spend.

Meanwhile, students in traditional schools — who account for 90 percent of Ohio’s school population — get, on average, 6.5 percent less funding than the state says they need and are entitled to receive.

Most of the money transferred to charters goes to schools whose students’ performance scores are worse than in the school districts from which that money and those students came. Clearly, reform is in order.

Since Gov. John Kasich and the General Assembly are developing a new school funding system as part of the 2014-15 state budget, there couldn’t be a better time for change.
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Dispatch finally reports on failing charters

The Columbus Dispatch took a brief break from its constant haranguing of Columbus City Schools to report on the terrible state of charter schools in the city. It took some haranguing of JTF and others to make this happen. On August 26th we wrote to the Dispatch education reporters via Twitter:

@jointhefutureOH: Isn't it about time the Dispatch starting reporting the poor quality of Columbus charters as vigorously as you do CCS? @jsmithrichards

We continued to press the Dispatch to report on the sorry state of charter schools in Columbus and around the state.

1/3 of cities students go to charters, paper of record needs to do a much better job of holding charters accountable too. @jsmithrichards

On Sunday, the Dispatch finally reported on the sorry state of charter schools with a piece titled "Charter schools’ failed promise"
But what started as an experiment in fixing urban education through free-market innovation is now a large part of the problem. Almost 84,000 Ohio students — 87 percent of the state’s charter-school students — attend a charter ranking D or F in meeting state performance standards.

“Measured up against the hype of the proponents early on, this adds to the accumulation of what has to be regarded, measured (through proficiency tests), as disappointing results,” said Jeffrey Henig, a Columbia University political-science and education professor who has studied the school-reform movement.

“There were proponents who believed there was a fundamental flaw in the public system that led them to be resistant to change,” Henig said. “Charters were going to unleash this energy and responsiveness, and they haven’t done that as a sector.”
The whole piece is worth a read. For the Dispatch to finally recognize that the charter school experiment has failed is a surprising but much overdue development.

However, as Steve Dyer notes, while the Dispatch highlights the poor charter performance on the new report cards, they failed to understand just how bad charters truly are

Are Charters really comparable to Big 8 urban buildings? The most basic question I could think to ask was, "How many kids from the Big 8 schools actually make up the populations of Big 8 Charters?"
Dyer goes on to demonstrate the charter schools in urban areas are not populated by just urban students, but also attract very large numbers of students from the suburbs. Students that data shows come from improved socioeconomic backgrounds.
For example, Columbus Preparatory Academy, which routinely ranks high on accountability measures, only took 49% of their children from Columbus City Schools. The school took about 42% from South-Western, another 5% from Hilliard and kids from Bexley, Dublin, Olentangy and Westerville. So is it fair to hold up Columbus Prep's performance and compare it with Columbus City's?
No, it is not. The problem goes even deeper than Dyer points out. Charter schools also screen students using a variety of techniques, many of which we documented here - How "top charters" screen students.

So when you put this all together you have
  • Charters that underperform traditional public schools in a head-to-head match up
  • Despite being able to pull in students from suburban districts where poverty is a lesser factor in learning
  • Despite attracting students with the most engaged parents
  • Despite being able to use many techniques to screen for students they believe might perform higher
  • Despite receiving more money per student from the state than traditional public schools
When you look at the full range of failure of charter schools, you can see that the urgent plan required in Columbus and Cleveland and across the entire state, is a plan to deal with the explosion of poor quality charter schools that are failing tens of thousands of students every year.

Welcome to the real conversation, Columbus Dispatch.

ODE Hires Tea Party reactionary to oversee charters

Last week it was announced that the Ohio Department of Education had hired David J. Hansen, former President of the Buckeye Institute, a Tea Party front group, that pushes extreme right wing ideological policies. Mr. Hansen will be the states Executive Director for the Office of Quality School Choice and Funding.

It should come as little surprise then, that Mr. Hansen holds ideas that are out of the mainstream and not supported by facts. In an op-ed in the Hillsboro Times Gazette, he wrote
"Parental choice in education offers the promise of improving public school systems by holding them accountable to market forces."

"Market accountability ensures that schools are run for the sake of educating children."

"Parental choice strategies are still needed to simply save as many children as possible from our failing public schools."

"Unfortunately for the children left behind in public school systems, teacher union contracts are the greatest impediment to the meaningful reform promised by parental choice."
As you can see, Mr. Hansen is a big supporter of corporate education,and SB5 like policies that Ohioans rejected by a massive margin. If teacher's union contracts are such a problem, how does Mr. Hansen explain away the simple fact that unionized schools in Ohio significantly outperform non-unionized charter schools? As we previously wrote
If charter schools can;
  • Compensate their teachers based on any criteria they choose since they are unencumbered by a union contract (ie merit pay)
  • Employ teachers without offering a continuing contract (ie tenure)
  • Fire or lay off teachers for any performance based criteria without need to follow a union contract (ie no seniority)
  • Avoid class size limits created by a union contract
  • Be free to impose any legal work place restrictions or rules they wish
  • Be unencumbered by any union contract provision and be free from a whole host of regulations
Why is it that their performance is so darn terrible
Let's hope that Mr. Hansen spends more time wondering why for-profit charter schools in Ohio are so terrible, than pursuing his ideological agenda against teachers. We should also note that Mr. Hansen is the husband of the Governor's Chief of Staff. The Governor's spokesperson denied nepotism was involved in the hiring.

Three-Quarters Of Teachers Have Hungry Students

It probably doesn't help students learn, let alone take the all important raft of high stakes standardized tests, when they are hungry. And according to a new report, plenty of them are.

Three-quarters of America’s teachers have students who routinely show up to school hungry and half say hunger is a serious problem in their classrooms, according to No Kid Hungry’s annual educator survey.

Here's the report from Share Our Strength


Investing in education is Key to Ohio's Future

Investing in education is the key to Ohio's long term economic and social prosperity. That's the message from a new study performed by think tank Policy Matters.

Over the last 30 years, median wages have fallen in Ohio as growth in our education levels has not kept up with other states. This paper finds a clear and strong correlation between the educational attainment of a state’s workforce and median wages in the state, providing more evidence that Ohio should invest in education.

Analysis shows no relationship between tax rates and strong state economy
States that invest in a well-educated workforce will see returns in higher-wage jobs and a more productive economy, according to a paper released today by the Economic Analysis and Research Network.

The report, “Education Investment is Key to State Prosperity,” found a strong link between educational attainment in a state and both productivity and median wages. Expanding access to high-quality education will create more economic opportunity for residents and do more to strengthen a state’s economy than anything else a state can do, study authors found.

“States have fewer tools to build a strong economy than the federal government does, but states do play a major role in education – one area that turns out to be crucial for building a high-wage economy,” said Noah Berger, report co-author and president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. At the same time, the paper found no clear relationship between a state’s tax rates and its wages. Ohio has cut taxes repeatedly over the past dozen years with little positive effect on the economy, but continues to underfund education.

“This study provides more evidence that Ohio should invest in education,” said Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, EARN’s Ohio partner. “Over the last 30 years, median wages have fallen here as growth in our education levels has not kept up with other states.”
The report has some key findings
  • Overwhelmingly, high-wage states have a well-educated workforce.
  • Cutting taxes undermines states’ ability to invest in education.
  • Education has suffered as state economic development wars have escalated.
  • Median wages in Ohio have fallen over the last 30 years, while the state lags most others in growth in educational attainment.
These findings are in contrast to the policies currently being pursued by the Governor and his legislative allies. Even the Dispatch, a long time supporter of the Governor has began to notice that his policies are not working
Ohio has lost government jobs at a steeper rate than most of the United States since January 2009, and the cratering public sector is having a negative impact on the state’s overall economic recovery.

During the past 4 1/2 years, a period that includes the end of a national recession, Ohio has shed 47,900 federal, state and local government jobs for a 6 percent drop, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Only California, New York and Florida have lost more government jobs, and Ohio’s drop percentage is more than triple the national median rate.

Most of Ohio’s public-sector pain has been felt at the local level — think police forces, firehouses, road crews and schools — where 45,100 jobs have been lost, an 8 percent decline.

Ohio has added 10,100 net jobs in that time, counting all nonfarming employment.
We clearly need a new direction, one that prioritizes what works over what doesn't. One that fully funds an education for all of Ohio's students, so we can secure our future.
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