More calls for Ohio charter-school reform
By Marc Kovac
A liberal think tank, a state teachers union and a Summit County school district reiterated calls Thursday for lawmakers to move legislation to clamp down on poor-performing charter schools.
Innovation Ohio, the Ohio Education Association and officials from Woodridge Schools also said recent budget legislation provides increased state support for charters, subsidizing failing locations while taking needed funds from public schools.
“We receive $680 roughly per student in state funding,” said Walter Davis, Woodridge superintendent. “However, when students leave our school district to go to a charter school, they take an average of $6,853 with them. ... For every child that leaves our school district to go to a charter school in the state of Ohio, there are 10 resident Woodridge students who receive no state funding.
“This is egregious; it is unfair, and we call on the General Assembly to enact reforms that will level the playing field and make charter schools as accountable as we are and have been to the taxpayers of our school district.”
Lawmakers have been considering charter-school reform. Before breaking for the summer, the Ohio Senate approved HB 2, which would institute new requirements for charter-school sponsors, governing boards and operators.
Among other provisions, the bill would block poorly performing charters from switching sponsors and poorly performing sponsors from sponsoring other charter locations.
The legislation would require increased disclosure of charter contracts, facility costs, attendance policies and other details of their operation.
The state education department would have to annually rate charter sponsors on academic performance and other compliance issues and publish lists of charters that have closed since 2011 and other details of the schools.
The final bill is a combination of the original House-passed legislation, provisions outlined in separate Senate legislation and language that was included in Gov. John Kasich’s executive budget proposal.
One of the primary co-sponsors of HB 2, Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, was supportive of the Senate changes. But the Ohio House recessed for the summer without considering those changes.
“It’s disappointing that we began a new school year without necessary action having been taken to pass HB 2, legislation that would help ensure all of Ohio’s students are attending schools including charters that are being held to high standards of transparency and accountability,” said Scott DiMauro, vice president of the Ohio Education Association.
Earlier this summer, David Hansen, husband of Gov. John Kasich’s former chief of staff and current campaign manager, resigned as school choice director at the Ohio Department of Education after revelations he purposely excluded data on failing online schools in an evaluation of charter performance.
Democratic lawmakers and other groups subsequently have pushed for further investigation of Hansen’s decision, with calls for state Superintendent Richard Ross to step down. The education department has not yet released emails and other documents that could shed further light on the situation.