New Report: 3/4 of All Money Sent To Charters is a Waste

The Ohio Charter School Accountability Project has just released a report, using the latest report card data to compare charters to traditional public schools. As has become the norm, charter schools do not fare well by comparison. Here's their top line findings:

The Ohio Charter School Accountability Project has conducted a new analysis of how charter schools are performing compared to local public schools and the financial impact on local school districts. This report is based on the recently released 2014-15 school report card data from the Ohio Department of Education. A look at both performance and funding reveals two key points:

  1. The vast majority of state charter funding is being transferred from good school districts to poor-performing charter schools; and

  2. Because of a broken funding system, local tax dollars from school districts are being forced to cover the cost of consistently underperforming charter schools.

Digging into the results, the scale of the charter school failure, and funding boondoggle is eye-popping.

Out of the $800 million in state funding that charter schools receive, $580 million in state funding was transferred to charter schools that did not outperform the local school district, while only $218 million in state aid actually went to charters that performed better. In other words, 72.5 percent of all state funding to charters is not going to schools that give kids a better choice, but instead is going to charters that DO NOT outperform the local school district.

When comparing student growth, with charter boosters consider a fairer method, the results are even worse

Student growth (value added in the state report card) has become for many the standard by which school and district performance should be measured. Using this metric, nearly $8 out of every $10 sent from a district to a charter that has a grade in this category comes from a district that performed the same or better than the charter. Ohio sent more than $521.7 million from districts to poorer-performing charters (same or better student growth grades) than the to that received the funding. Only $138.4 million went to higher performing charters

The report compares lots of other scenarios, from the Big 8, to Youngstown, and in none of them do charters stack up. But we want to draw final attention to the utter disaster for students and tax-payers alike, that is ECOT.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is the nation’s largest for-profit school and Ohio’s first and largest charter school. Run by the mega-political donor William Lager, ECOT has been the center of much controversy lately. As such, we looked specifically at ECOT’s performance to see how much of the more than $100 million that flowed to it came from better performing school districts. The results are stunning. Nearly 94% of all money sent to ECOT in the 2014-2015 school came from districts that had the same or better performance, with half of ECOT’s funding coming from districts that outperformed ECOT on 5 or more report card measures. Specifically, $97.6 million in state funding was transferred to ECOT when it did not outperform the district, while only $6.6 million in state aid actually went to ECOT when it performed better. 

There is simply no way to justify this ongoing failure. If the passage of HB2, the charter reform law, does not end in the closure of ECOT, it is a reform failure. But the Legislature should not wait to act.