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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.

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.

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.

Dick Ross, ODE, and the State, Sued Over Youngstown Secret Privatization Plan

From the Press release
The Ohio Education Association (OEA) along with the Youngstown City School District Board of Education, the Youngstown Education Association - an affiliate of the OEA, Ohio Council 8 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and Jane Haggerty, a taxpayer and Youngstown voter, filed a lawsuit in Franklin County to stop the scheduled state takeover of Youngstown City Schools.

The suit against the State of Ohio, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross, and the Ohio Department of Education, claims the law that sets up a state takeover was rushed through the Ohio legislature without receiving three readings in each chamber, as required by the Ohio Constitution and in a manner that prevented thorough debate and consideration of the law, including input from educators and local citizens. The suit also claims the law violates the right of local citizens to have elected representatives oversee their school districts.

“Educators want to be able to advocate for their students,” said OEA president Becky Higgins. “The plan to turn over decision-making authority in the Youngstown schools to single person – a CEO – would effectively silence the voices of educators. That’s unacceptable. Educators are committed to improving the Youngstown schools and they need to be heard.”

The plaintiffs asked the judge for a preliminary injunction to block the establishment of a new “Academic Distress Commission” that would name a CEO to run the schools until report card ratings improve. The appointed CEO would have the authority to replace administrators, set class sizes, alter existing contracts and set compensation.
The constitution is pretty clear
Article VI §3 states that:

...each school district embraced wholly or in part within any city shall have the power by referendum vote to determine for itself the number of members and the organization of the district board of education, and provision shall be made by law for the exercise of the power by such school districts. The constitution recognizes that the board of education is in charge of its district.
That does seem to preclude having a non elected CEO run things.

The plans troubles don't end there. There are also reports that the crafting of the plan may have broken Ohio's sunshine laws
Two state lawmakers charge that the Youngstown City Schools Business Cabinet was a public body and that its behind-closed-doors meetings violated the Sunshine Law.

The cabinet devised the Youngstown Plan, the legislation that allows a chief executive officer to be appointed to manage and operate the city school district.

“These meetings were meetings about public education policy,” said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th. “Taxpayer dollars were affected with it, and it was a secret.”

The meetings purposely excluded parents and teachers, she said.

Lepore-Hagan and Rep. Teresa Fedor of Toledo, D-45th, want Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, to resign.
ODE and the State are going to have an uphill fight over this one.

Worker Rally Eclipses Koch Brothers Funded Anti-Worker Conference

On August 21st, thousands of working men and women came together at McFerson Commons in the Arena District of downtown Columbus.

The crowd listened to a number of speakers talking about the importance of the American Dream, and how it is workers, not billionaires and profiteers that create and sustain it. One of those speakers was retired school teacher, Mary Binegar.

Here's her prepared remarks
As an educator in the public school system for 33 years, I am proud of the contributions that public employees make every day to better the lives of those who live and work in our communities.

Public education has been a center piece for all Americans in creating opportunities to learn, grow, find work and have a shot at the American Dream.

We need to invest in our public schools and our public services. However, Americans for Prosperity’s idea of the American Dream is to devalue public education and privatize our most valued public services and assets.

We have seen firsthand here in Ohio the dramatic lack of accountability when education is privatized -- profits, not education become the priority.

The American Dream is achieved by putting students first, not profits — by making access to a quality public education available to all by investing in it rather than taking money out of it and giving it to profiteers.

Ohio’s students deserve great public schools whether they are “traditional” schools or taxpayer-funded charter schools. Unfortunately, too many students in Ohio are being ill-served by the large number of poor-performing charter schools. These charter schools take away scarce public tax dollars from traditional public schools attended by the vast majority of Ohio’s students

Many charter schools offer a false choice to parents who are told their student can go to a charter school but they do not realize that the charter school performs much worse academically than the public school where the student came from. I have seen far too many students return to their home school far behind in their courses after several months in a charter school.

In fact, many charter school educators in Ohio are seeking union representation because they want to have a voice in providing an excellent, safe, and nurturing learning environment where students will reach their full potential.

Now, as a retired teacher, and not part of the Social Security system, I have earned and depend on a defined pension and health care benefits to make ends meet and have dignity in retirement.

Americans for Prosperity have actively campaigned to take away retirement security for public employees. How is taking away earned pension and health care the American Dream?

We’re better than this. It’s time that all working people speak up together and challenge the corporate ceo’s and their agenda to divide workers, and devalue the work that we do.

Together, we can move our agenda to raise wages, put family first and retire with dignity. This is the American Dream and I’m here to defend it.
The gathering then marched to the Convention center to demonstrate in front of the Koch Brothers conference attendees.

The 2015-16 Evaluation Mess

Here's what ODE bullet points as the main changes to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System
State law (Ohio House Bill 64) brought changes to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System for the 2015-2016 school year and beyond. The bill extends "safe harbor" provisions for educators who use value-added ratings from state tests for the student growth measure portion of their evaluations. The legislation also modifies the alternative framework, one of two models districts must choose from when evaluating teachers and principals.

Safe harbor provides flexibility with value-added data – Because of the transition to new state tests, which offer value-added data as one means of calculating student academic growth, the General Assembly also extended and modified safe harbor provisions. That means that school districts will not use value-added ratings from state tests for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years as part of educator evaluations or when making decisions regarding dismissal, retention, tenure or compensation – unless they establish a memorandum of understanding to do so. Teachers will continue to receive value-added reports that will provide them with diagnostic information about their students’ progress.

Alternative framework changes – Districts still must choose either the original model (which weights performance and student growth equally at 50 percent each) or an alternative model to follow as they conduct teacher evaluations. The alternative model now weights teacher performance at 50 percent, student growth at 35 percent and an additional component as 15 percent of the total. If selecting this framework, districts may use one or any combination of five options for the additional component:

Student surveys;
Teacher self-evaluations;
Peer review evaluations;
Student portfolios; or a
District-determined component.
On the face of it, an improvement. Though the continued insistence on relying on unreliable VAM data is still, after all these years, after all the studies showing it doesn't work, is frustrating.

Now go read the FAQ ODE has produced, and one quickly realizes that once you start asking questions based on the real world, HB64 has created a tangled mess of more work - work that will once again be abandoned in 2 years time when the safe harbor expires.

The legislature should simply scrap all this state mandated evaluation nonsense, and allow districts to develop their own evaluation systems, leaving ODE to provide suggested frameworks, and assessments.

It is simply not possible to get to a system that fairly evaluates all teachers in an apples-to-apples way, and that amount of effort being expending in attempting to do so is distracting from the primary mission of educating students.

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