The Big e-school rip off

The evidence is becoming clearer and clearer. E-School charters are a tax payer rip-off that delivers awful results.

At Join the Future we have focused most of our attention on the poor quality Ohio's e-schools have delivered. Providing the highest quality education is, after all, the most important aspect to schools. In article after article, we have highlighted the packed virtual classrooms, and the poor graduation rates they produce.

But now comes news that not only do they produce awful results in terms of educational quality, they are also a huge pay payer rip off. First for some context as to the scope of e-schools in Ohio

Enrollment in online schools in Ohio has passed 30,000, more than 12 times the number in 2000 when the first "virtual" school opened in the state.

Only Arizona had more students enrolled full time in online schools in 2010-11, according to an annual report by the Evergreen Education Group.
Although scattered around the state, the online students combined would make up the third-largest district in Ohio — about the size of the Cincinnati schools. The online schools are charters, independently operated but publicly funded.
Ohio's online schools have become a big business. The state paid online charter schools $209 million in 2010-11 to educate students, or an average of $6,337 per student.

Results are mixed at both for-profit and district-run schools. Online students have lower graduation rates than those at traditional schools. They attend college at a lower rate. At the same time, other measures have shown online students learning as much as, or more than, students in many districts.

It's a growth business. And reporting from StateImpact Ohio and the Plain Dealer indicate why

Robert Mengerink didn’t know how much an online school really costs to operate — until he started one.

When he learned this summer that the agency he heads, the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, could offer a basic online program for less than half of what the state pays online schools per student, he was taken aback.
The cost? About $2,980 per student for a full course load all year.

That's more than 50% cheaper than the for-profit charter operations such as ECOT, and it's not an isolated example.

TRECA Digital Academy, another publicly operated provider of online K-12 education, says it can do it for about $3,600 per student.

That potential savings highlights questions that critics of online schools have been asking for years: What really happens to that taxpayer-provided money? Is most of it going to educate students? Or are schools pocketing a large profit while cutting corners for students?

That's a really good question. For a Governor and legislature that talks about reducing government spending so much, we are left wondering why they continue to allow such a laissez faire attitude to these terrible schools.

We recommend you read the full State Impact report, it really should open some eyes.

The Missing Link In Genuine School Reform

The big "reform" trucks have been rollin' down the education highway for nearly a decade now. Public school educators are used to faux reform's inconvenience and injustice by now--and some even accept endless testing, lockstep standards and curriculum, and systematic destruction of public schools as necessary for positive change. Parents and grandparents may like their children's schools and teachers, but have absorbed the incessant media drumbeat: public education has failed. Out with the old! Something Must Be Done!

If--like me--you still believe that public education is a civic good, an idea perfectly resonant with democratic equality, you're probably wondering if there's anything that can stop the big "reform" trucks. Those massive, exceptionally well-funded "reform" trucks with their professional media budgets, paid commentary and slick political arms.

I can tell you this: it won't be teachers alone who turn back the tide of "reform." Teachers have been backed into a corner, painted as unionists bent on their own security (whether they pay dues or not), unwilling to be "accountable." They have been replaced, willy-nilly, by untrained temps--without retaliatory strike-back from their national union leaders. They have been publicly humiliated by their own cities and media outlets, not to mention the Secretary of Education.

Besides, teaching--as an occupational cluster--tends to attract those who liked school and believe sincerely in the power of public education to do good in society. They're nurturers--four-fifths of them women, many with children and family responsibilities as well as professional careers. It's not surprising when teachers keep their heads down and follow orders, even when their hearts aren't in it.

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Top 3 Today

Your top 3 stories today.

  1. Business Breaking With Kasich Over Union Busting Bill
    "Small businesses understand SB5 will lead to the elimination of lots of jobs in local communities," Dennis Willard told TPM. "When that happens, because public sector jobs like all jobs drive the economy, these merchants are really concerned they're going to lose business."

    For now, Williams said there's no organized effort to raise money from the firms to support the SB5 repeal operations. But he said that the fact that so many companies are publicly standing in what amounts to opposition to the state Chamber suggests that SB5 supporters in the business community may have a problem.

  3. Pickerington Teacher Layoffs Finalized
    The board voted not to renew the contracts of 70 newer, probationary teachers, those with one to three years of experience. Board members also approved laying off about 50 more experienced teachers.

Outsourcing the Future

From Pro Publica

Since 2008, an Ohio-based company, White Hat Management, has collected around $230 million to run charter schools in that state. The company has grown into a national chain and reports that it has about 20,000 students across the country. But now 10 of its own schools and the state of Ohio are suing, complaining that many White Hat students are failing, and that the company has refused to account for how it has spent the money.

The dispute between White Hat and Ohio, which is unfolding in state court in Franklin County, provides a glimpse at a larger trend: the growing role of private management companies in publicly funded charter schools.

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News for March 29th, 2011

The Plain Dealer has a rundown of where we are with S.B.5 and some of the changes expected to be included

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The latest version of Senate Bill 5 -- a Republican-backed plan to reduce collective bargaining rights -- will be unveiled Tuesday with nearly a dozen changes, including modifications that could address concerns police and fire unions have raised.

Any changes short of entirely scrapping the bill, however, are unlikely to sway Democrats and union leaders, who have pledged to put SB 5 before voters on a statewide ballot either this November or next if the measure passes.

Onto the subject of "choice", despite it's staunch advocacy of the policy, Dispatch readers continue to reject the idea of increasing vouchers

If you lumped all of Franklin County's charter-school and voucher students into one district, it would be bigger than the South-Western school district.

Those 21,794 children would make up the sixth-largest school district in Ohio. Nearly 12 percent of publicly funded students in the county attend charter schools or use a state-funded voucher to attend private ones.

The Budget continues to bring bad news, with this article demonstrating clearly that the assault on public education has nothing to do with education

Scarce resources for gifted students could be lost entirely under Gov. John Kasich's two-year budget plan.

Stay tuned to our Twitter feed today as we cover the S.B.5 hearings and rally.