Ohio charter schools: More closures, less openings signal high-water mark in 2014

Last year was pivotal for Ohio’s charter school movement — never had so many closed or so few opened.

The 2014 uptick in closures — led by 17 in Columbus — and a slump in openings — only 11 opened following 56 the year before — indicate that the groups sponsoring these publicly funded and privately run schools are rejecting some low-performers and applying heightened scrutiny before approving new ones.

As the state’s fiscal auditor and private research groups have reported inordinate amounts of misspent taxpayer dollars and low academic performance in Ohio charter schools, the slowing of the movement is in part a result of Ohio education officials cracking down on sponsors.

“Before I think we were pretty lax in what we were asking them to submit. Now we’re making sure that all those inspections are done, all the teachers are certified, all that stuff is in place before we let a school open,” a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education has said.

Four of the 11 new charter schools, including Steel Academy in Akron, have been sponsored by the state. The remaining seven are mostly sponsored by private, nonprofit groups.

None of the 11 new charter schools has closed, though planned and actual enrollment figures reported to the state indicate at least four are operating below their enrollment goals, which determine operating revenue. Between June 2013 and June 2014, 32 Ohio charter schools closed, most voluntarily for financial reasons. Only nine had been open for more than a full academic year, signalling a spike in the failure rate of first-year schools.

A net loss of charter schools also has curbed statewide enrollment and the steadily increasing transfer of state funding from traditional public schools to charter schools.

(Read more at the Akron Beacon Journal)