Ohio charter schools identified as among worst in nation

During a day of panel discussions with education reporters and experts at the University of Colorado Boulder, national and local school choice supporters had plenty to say about Ohio.

None of it, however, was good.

The Buckeye State took center stage Friday in Denver as school-choice supporters and critics debated what seems to be working in the nation’s charter schools, and what isn’t.

The event was hosted by the Education Writers Association with funding from the Walton Family Foundation, a staunch proponent of private and charter schools.

While panelists disagreed on how much regulation should be applied to charter schools, which are exempt from some states’ requirements, there was little debate about where some of the lowest performing charter school companies operate.

“Mike [Petrilli] could probably go down a list of Ohio operators that fall into this category,” said panelist Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president for state advocacy and support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Ziebarth and Petrilli, president of the national Thomas B. Fordham Institute, support charter schools, which are publicly funded but, especially in Ohio, can be operated by private, for-profit companies.

Among the lowest performing charter school operators continually identified by Ziebarth, Petrilli and other panelists were: K12 Inc., a national company that operates Ohio Virtual Academy and Insight of Ohio; the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, an Ohio online charter school owned by political contributor Bill Lager; and White Hat Management, an Akron-based company founded by local industrialist David Brennan, who pioneered Ohio’s charter school movement. Two of the operators run only cyber, or online, schools in Ohio, which has the third-highest enrollment of online charter school students in the nation, said panelist John Watson, who runs a K-12 educational technology consulting firm.

(Read more at The ABJ)