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.