Charter schools a hot topic in Ohio

This week StateImpact Ohio is featuring a series on charter schools in Ohio that will address questions about charter school performance, management/governance, finances, and more. (Note, StateImpact is a ?reporting project of local public media and NPR? and exists in multiple states including Ohio.)

The first part in the series, ?Thirteen Years Into the Charter School Experiment,? provides a decent (if brief) overview of Ohio's charter history and landscape. The piece points out several benefits that charter schools have provided in the Buckeye State, namely parental empowerment, pressure on traditional public schools to get better, and freedom from ridiculous red tape stipulating things like the size of a school cafeteria.

At least one missing fact ? and the cause of a lot of misconception about charter schools ?draining? the public school system ? is worth highlighting, however. The piece begins by noting that ?Ohio is paying upwards of $500,000 to support these schools? but fails to point out that in the Buckeye State, charters schools are and historically have been severely underfunded compared to their district counterparts. For example, in FY 2010, each pupil in Columbus City Schools received $8,200 in local revenue. Meanwhile, charter schools in Columbus ? including two of our own - receive zero dollars in local funds, and the amount captured from the state, approximately $5300 per pupil, doesn't even come close to making up for this gap amount. (Never mind the money that public district schools receive on top of the local amount. The total for CCS was over $14,000 per pupil in FY 2010.)

The second part of the series, ?Disappointed with Local Schools, Urban Parents Start Their Own,? tells the story of one Cleveland-area parent who joined forces with other parents to start their own charter school modeled after one of the highly performing Breakthrough Schools. And the article lifts up the great work of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, one of Ohio's most collaborative districts when it comes to partnering with schools of choice:

Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon says he's tired of the us-versus-them attitude between charters and public schools. He says Hovis, Breakthrough Schools and everyone else involved with Near West Intergenerational really impressed the folks at CMSD. So, ?not only did Cleveland sponsor them but we actually created a lease agreement where they are co-located in one of our buildings.?

As an authorizer of charter schools and an advocate of choice broadly (and rigorous accountability for schools of choice) Fordham is interested to see how this series develops. We hope the reporters at StateImpact will compare charter performance to their district counterpart schools (not to the statewide average) and explore funding inequities, while also answering tough questions about accountability and management in state that's riddled with some high-profile scandals and examples of mis-management.

Speaking of charter schools, listen to Terry Ryan's thoughts on yesterday's WOSU's ?All Sides with Ann Fisher? here.

-Jamie Davies O'Leary

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