Fordham Institute media statement on release of $71 million federal charter school grant to Ohio

Today, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) announced that it would release the $71 million Charter School Program (CSP) grant awarded to Ohio last September, but with additional restrictions attached. The letter outlines "high-risk" special conditions for how Ohio's award can be spent. This includes excluding virtual charter schools, placing extra requirements on subgrants to dropout recovery charter schools, and a promise that USDOE will carefully monitor and ensure that Ohio completes its authorizer evaluations on time.

The federal CSP program dates back to 1994, and has been used to seed new charter schools across the U.S. as well as enable top-performing charter networks to grow and expand. In recent years, the CSP program has drawn broad bi-partisan support in Congress.

Ohio’s grant was put on hold shortly after it was announced, as the USDOE considered additional safeguards on how the funds would be spent. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) revised its application in January 2016 to further describe the state’s charter accountability infrastructure. More recently, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria aggressively moved forward with charter sponsor evaluations—a key part of the state’s CSP application—despite attempts to delay them.

“We’re extremely pleased that the USDOE, after a careful review of Ohio’s charter school oversight and the many improvements that have been made to it, decided to release the CSP grant dollars. This grant is an important resource that will allow Ohio’s best charters to replicate,” said Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “The burden now shifts to Ohio’s Department of Education to design a rigorous grant process that awards funding to those charter schools with the highest likelihood of increasing student achievement.”

The award announcement letter can be found here.