Ohio Gadfly Daily

Cheers to State Representatives Mike Dovilla and Kristina Roegner. They are the sponsors of House Bill 2, a high-priority bill introduced early in the 131st General Assembly that would remedy long-neglected deficiencies in Ohio’s charter school law, including in transparency, sponsor/school relationships, board roles, and accountability.

Cheers to Governor John Kasich, whose FY 2016–17 state budget also includes important charter school reforms, especially in the area of sponsor quality (which you can read about elsewhere in this issue of Ohio Gadfly). While there are incentives being proffered for achieving higher quality, it should not be overlooked just how much the bar is being raised in Ohio. If the governor is successful, sponsors and schools who fail to reach the mark will not just miss out on incentives; they will be out of the education business.

Jeers to the drawing of false battle lines. Walnut Township Schools in rural Fairfield County is heading for a fiscal abyss. They must cut nearly a million dollars from their budget by February 10 or risk being placed under fiscal emergency by the state. At an emergency board meeting on February 4, a budget-cutting plan was unanimously approved, which still might not be enough to keep them away from state oversight. But two members said on the record they were only buying time to avoid the emergency declaration and have no intention of following through on the voted plan. Why? They see the state as an enemy. At a February...

  1. Editors in Akron opine on the district funding proposals in the governor’s budget. They seem cautiously optimistic. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  2. Patrick O’Donnell dives deep into proposed charter school reforms in both the governor’s budget and in HB 2. He and those he interviews seem to have concerns about what they see as a “sponsor-centric” approach to reform. It is a complex topic, as is clear by the length of the piece and the sheer number of voices included, and some details are missed. But overall, it’s a superior discussion at what will be an important issue in the early months of the 131st Ohio General Assembly. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Another hot topic in the realm of school choice is the EdChoice Scholarship Program. The application window is now open and tens of thousands of students across Ohio are eligible to leave their persistently-low-performing public schools to go to a private school of their choice with a voucher. Once they find the right fit, they can stay in their private school all the way through graduation, no matter if the performance of their assigned district school improves. It is likely this latter issue that has some folks in Dayton City Schools determined to limit the number of students leaving the district with an EdChoice Scholarship. You can read their arguments against vouchers in this extensive DDN piece and make up your own mind as to their validity. Personally, I think the best way to keep families
  4. ...
  1. Giant geekout at the Ohio Statehouse yesterday – better known as Straight-A Innovation Day, where schools, consortia, and projects funded by the previous two rounds of state innovation grants were showcased. The AP story is a little dry, so if you’re looking for more juice, check out Twitter and search #StraightADay. My favorite was from a young lady who Tweeted: “You know it’s a good day when the governor compliments your robot.” Indeed. (Dayton Daily News)
     
  2. Speaking of technological geekouts, this story is about a student in Pennsylvania who is attending school from home via robot while his broken leg heals. It is clipped in an Ohio paper, however, and one local supe sounds pretty stoked by the idea. There IS another round of Straight A Funds called for in Governor Kasich’s new budget. Just sayin’. (Ashtabula Star Beacon)
     
  3. Speaking of the governor’s budget, that squawking he predicted over school district funding changes is continuing. Here are two pieces from Ohio’s largest cities. First up, a look at proposed changes for rural districts in greater central Ohio from the Columbus Dispatch. Some special attention is paid to Walnut Township Schools, whose dire fiscal situation has been building up over five years and which we’ve been following here for the last month. Also, a look at some inner-ring suburban districts in Cuyahoga County from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The focus here, as in a lot of other places, is on “winners” and “losers”. None of
  4. ...
  1. Yesterday saw a Q&A between House Education Committee members and the sponsors of HB 2 (the charter law overhaul bill) as well as the start of committee hearings on HB 7 (the bill which would, among other things, give students a “safe harbor” from PARCC test results). Not much to say at this point on the testing bill – that will come – but it was interesting to hear how very open the sponsors of HB 2 were to lots of other recommendations to improve the charter sector over and above what’s already in the bill. Call us, members of the committee, we have some more recommendations. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  2. Editors in Cleveland opine on standardized testing in Ohio today. The specific issue of cutting testing time is not yet on the legislative radar, but the calls continue. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Editors in Cleveland also opined on the governor’s budget proposal this week, saying “there’s a lot to like” in it. Among the education provisions, charter law reforms get a thumbs-up from PD Tower while district funding reforms get a wait-and-see-but-we’re-inclined-to-be-bothered. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  4. One of the things the PD’s editors wanted to wait-and-see about is what is known as “district runs”. That is, a spreadsheet from the state that shows which districts’ funding go up and which go down under the new plan. Those runs were released yesterday. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  5. The governor was in Cleveland yesterday as those district runs were released
  6. ...
  1. Editors in Cleveland opine on two current bills – HB 2 and the governor’s budget – which aim to reform Ohio’s charter school law. Good timing, as Gov. Kasich is in Cleveland today – at a Breakthrough-operated charter school – touting his plan. PD editorial on charter reform. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. Speaking of the governor’s budget, while Kasich himself is on the road selling, his budget director is on the hot seat in the Ohio House, answering questions from legislators. Yesterday, it was detailed questions about K-12 education. This go-round was just about traditional district funding, although I’m sure the proposed changes to transportation funding will end up affecting charter and voucher students as well if enacted. Hopefully, for the better. (Gongwer Ohio)
     
  3. Speaking of transportation, the results of a two-year study of school transportation in Stark County were released earlier this week. I am almost speechless at its findings (almost) but will say that only a study produced by this particular group of players could find savings by hiring a hoard of new employees across multiple districts. I wonder to whom the work will fall to organize the centralized driver training and mechanic facilities? What noble entity will work this plan all out, save districts a bunch of money, and then consider “expanding” it to include vocational/charter/voucher school students? (Canton Repository)
     
  4. Speaking of altruists, here’s an update on the efforts to unionize teachers at one Columbus charter school. Spoiler alert: nothing has
  5. ...

So, it’s all about that budget today? No trouble.

  1. First up, the Beacon Journal. They equate the traditional district and charter school proposals in their headline, but definitely spend most of their column inches “spotlighting” those related to charter schools. How much so? So much that Chad is quoted and the Fordham-sponsored CREDO report on charter school quality in Ohio gets a name-check. Nice. (Akron Beacon Journal)
     
  2. Next, the Big D. They separate various budget strands in separate stories. Their K-12 education piece begins by noting, “more than half of Ohio school districts would see their state funding reduced” under the new budget. There is some mention of charter school oversight and funding changes along with some bullet points on the return of Straight A Grant funding and a proposed increase in EdChoice voucher amounts. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  3. In the Blade, they combine K-12 and higher ed coverage. Their K-12 section begins by noting, “Increased revenue would go to Ohio schools,” under the new budget, but that district-by-district changes depend on “multiple factors”. There is a tiny notation of charter school oversight and funding changes. (Toledo Blade)
     
  4. There really is just one “factor” that’s most at play in the district funding changes proposed in the new budget. And that is the buzzword of “capacity”, by which is most simply meant the ability of localities to tax themselves to support local education and other stuff besides. It is a more complex calculation in reality, based
  5. ...

Governor Kasich released his FY 16-17 biennial budget today. True to his word, Kasich featured charter school reforms prominently, with a focus on  improving sponsor quality, eliminating conflicts of interest, and addressing some of the funding inequities that plague charter schools.

“Governor Kasich has proposed some bold reforms that could significantly improve Ohio’s charter school sector,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “While facility funding and opening the door to sharing local dollars will dominate the headlines, it would be a mistake to overlook the innovative sponsor reforms being put forward.”

Sponsors are the entities in Ohio responsible for overseeing charter school performance. The budget would ensure that all sponsors are:

  • Subject to the state’s newly implemented sponsor evaluation system
  • Accountable to the department of education
  • Closed immediately for poor operation
  • Prohibited from selling services to schools that they sponsor, and
  • Incentivized for being a high quality authorizer.

“By ensuring proper oversight of Ohio charter school sponsors and aligning incentives with performance, Governor Kasich is placing Ohio’s charter sector on a new and better path.”

Kasich’s proposed reforms join those offered last week in House Bill 2 by Representatives Mike Dovilla and Kristina Roegner. The provisions in House Bill 2--focused on accountability, responsibility, and transparency—align well with Kasich’s proposal.

“We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly in improving Ohio’s charter schools in a way that benefits children, parents, and communities,” Aldis

...

Research Bites: Education in Ohio’s State of the State cities

Last week, Governor John Kasich announced that Wilmington will host his 2015 State of the State address. While Ohio governors have traditionally given their State of the State at the capitol, the address has been held outside of Columbus since 2012. This led me to wonder about education in the cities that have hosted the address ever since Governor Kasich has taken it on the road. The cities are Steubenville (2012), Lima (2013), Medina (2014), and Wilmington (2015). Here’s a quick look at the education in these four Ohio towns, district only, since just Lima has brick-and-mortar charters (two of them). As you’ll notice, Medina and Steubenville have relatively strong student achievement, while Lima lags behind. Given the sluggish student performance in Lima, it is of particular concern that the district does not have a single A-rated school along the Ohio’s value-added measure, which estimates the academic impact of schools measured as achievement gains tracked over time.

Student Enrollment (left) and % Economic Disadvantage (right), 2013-14

Medina City Schools is by far the largest and most affluent of these school districts. Lima and Steubenville are of similar size and practically all of their students are considered economically disadvantaged. Wilmington has considerably fewer economically disadvantaged students than Lima or Steubenville, though it is of similar size.

3rd Grade Reading Proficiency (%), 2013-14

Steubenville City Schools takes top honor in the percentage...

  1. Editors in Toledo opined on HB 2 – the charter school law reform bill – citing Fordham’s recent reports  while doing so. (Toledo Blade)
     
  2. HB 2 is not the only mechanism by which charter school quality can be improved. The new state budget – to be unveiled later today – will include a number of proposals designed to do just that via funding mechanisms, including facilities funding and access to local funding for operations for the first time. But with those new sources of funding would come increased accountability, especially for sponsors. Bellwether Education Partners’ recent policy recommendations – a report sponsored by Fordham – are cited as part of the basis for these budget proposals. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. School districts may be in line for some funding changes as well in the governor’s new budget. The Big D takes a look at this among other items in their budget preview. (Columbus Dispatch)
     
  4. Lest you think that improving charter sponsor quality is a new endeavor for the state of Ohio, this story should be a good reminder of the work that the Ohio Department of Education is already undertaking in this regard. The Portage County ESC has been under scrutiny by ODE for more than a year for its poor sponsorship practices, despite having a couple of high-performing individual schools in its portfolio. It is already barred from adding new schools and now it seems that it will be going out of the sponsorship
  5. ...
  1. With typical diligence, Patrick O’Donnell took his time in covering the introduction of HB 2 – the charter reform bill. His piece came out late yesterday, including an interview with our own Chad Aldis on the significance of the bill and of the high-level media coverage that preceded its introduction. "I think they got a lot of the really important things," Chad says of the bill. "This is a great start for looking at charter reform.” Nice. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  2. O’Donnell also was able to garner a direct and specific response to the bill from the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee. She calls the bill “tweaking” and “window dressing”, as you might expect. She also seems to have coined a new pejorative: “educaneurs”, which I can’t find anywhere else on the internet. Kudos. I have t-shirts already on order. They'll pair well with my bright yellow scarf. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
     
  3. Editors in Canton opine on the need for – and the apparent bipartisan interest in – charter law reform. They reference CREDO’s Ohio charter school performance study and the State Auditor’s recent report on charter school attendance in their argument. (Canton Repository)
     
  4. Here’s a fascinating piece covering a public forum in Cleveland Heights-University Heights titled "The Myth of Failing Teachers" and discussing “the damaging effects of high-stakes
  5. ...

Pages