Ohio Gadfly Daily

NOTE: This blog was first published in a slightly different form on The 74 on 5/12/17.

My first job out of college was in a construction company. I was hired as the office manager, receptionist, typist, and gofer. But I also transported enormous saw blades, delivered Christmas gifts to our best customers, called deadbeat clients to ask them politely but firmly when they were going to pay up, and even directed traffic on a busy commuter road during summer rush hour once in a while.

I graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing.

I had pursued that field of study because I wanted to be a writer and the English department at Ohio State University was pretty fertile ground for that. I took seminar classes from poets and award-winning short-story writers. Passed ‘em all too. I evolved from a lover of pulpy science fiction to an aspiring writer of literary fiction. It was thinky and boho and maybe even pretentious occasionally. The work was important, and we were all going to be the next great novelist, poet, or essayist.

And then I graduated. And life called me to dust and driving and deadlines. And you might...

  1. We told you last week about the Vindy op-ed penned by district CEO Krish Mohip, in which he opined in favor of big raises he wanted to give his district’s teachers. How big, you ask? How about 7 percent? Union leaders this week said no thank you (minus the “thank you”) to the CEO’s formal offer. You’ll have to read the piece to try and figure out why. Hint: it’s complicated and involves a reference to Greek mythology. (Youngstown Vindicator, 5/11/17)
  2. Speaking of money (and of less-than-polite-rejections), the state’s largest online school got a dose of the latter this week when a court hearing officer ruled against them in one phase of their ongoing kerfuffle with the state. A healthy dose of the former – $60 million – is now owed to the state. Pending appeals and other court cases and legislation, that is. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/9/17)
  3. Sticking with charter schools for a moment, a member of the board of United Schools Network here in Columbus (whose schools are sponsored by Fordham, dontcha know) opined this week in support of the state’s efforts to get facilities funding in the hands of high-quality charter schools. (Columbus
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A college degree is becoming increasingly necessary in order for young people to attain the jobs they want, and yet getting to and through college in some ways has never been more challenging. Many students are ill-prepared when they arrive, needing remediation in reading or math. Many others may lack the critical but hard to measure “soft” skills necessary to succeed in a postsecondary environment, like self-motivation, organization, ability to work independently, strong executive functioning skills, and self-awareness.

Even when students are fully prepared, the cost of college is immense. College graduates walk away, on average, with almost $40,000 in student loan debt. For students who are the first in their families to go to college, these challenges can be daunting. The Charles School (TCS)—a charter high school offering a unique five-year program in partnership with Ohio Dominican University—provides a one-of-a-kind early college experience to students in Columbus. Students can graduate with up to 62 hours of college credit, tuition free, and earn not just a high school diploma but also an associate’s degree. For students like Chris Sumlin, profiled in this story, TCS illuminated a path to and through college that felt dimly lit at...

  1. I was remiss in not clipping this Monday. We have discussed the incipient “Move to PROSPER” project before. It is an effort to help low-income families in Columbus – with education being among the highest priorities – by moving them from their current locations to “higher-opportunity areas”. That minimal description, as given previously, begged a lot of questions. And now we have a few answers. Yes, this does mean generating funds from private sources to move families out of the City of Columbus and into the suburbs. In fact, the locations are described by the school districts which serve them. They are: Hilliard, Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, and Olentangy Local school districts. The project is a long way from getting off the ground, but support appears to be building, and the statistics for success in the Columbus area are pretty clear indicators of the existing need, say project leaders. Especially sobering for those of us who live here, I daresay. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/1/17)
  2. Speaking of Columbus City Schools (were we?), here is a report on the recent Service Above Self Fair, in which students from all district high schools and two middle schools presented details of the service
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NOTE: This piece originally appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer in a slightly different form.

A recent Cincinnati Enquirer editorial by contributor Sarah Stitzlein sharply criticized Ohio’s current private-school scholarship programs and savaged Senate Bill 85, which would expand them. The recently introduced bill would open choice opportunities to working-class families by offering them partial tuition scholarships (aka vouchers) while continuing to offer full scholarships for pupils from low-income families.

Sadly, voucher critics distort private school choice and mislead the public as to why it’s worthwhile and how it works. They also distort or overlook key elements of the relevant research and make questionable claims about private schools.

Why vouchers? It’s no secret that wealthier parents enjoy a greater choice of schools for their children. They can afford to purchase homes in high-status suburban districts or cover the costs of private school education.

Yet few low- and middle-income families have similar opportunities. They typically send their kids to a public school that is assigned to them based on residential address. Many times, this works out fine. But when it doesn’t, students with limited means are stuck in schools that don’t meet their educational needs.

School choice, including private-school...

  1. Gongwer, as usual, delved deeper into specific aspects of the state budget bill than other media outlets. Specifically, on proposed changes to the state’s charter school sponsor evaluation framework proposed therein. Yes, they mentioned the magical mystery amendment language (a.k.a. the “loophole of staggering breadth”), but they seemed more interested in how such things as academic ratings of schools may be weighted in the future. Chad is quoted on the substantive issues herein. (Gongwer Ohio, 5/5/17)
  2. But fear not, all you dedicated Gadfly Bites readers. Both of you can take solace in this piece in which editors in Columbus opine solely upon the aforementioned magical mystery amendment language. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/8/17)
  3. Speaking of editorials – the ed board in Youngstown this weekend opined on the topic of the state’s graduation requirements. Side note: college access is not the only thing that’s early at Youngstown Early College High School. Graduation Day is too, it seems! (Youngstown Vindicator, 5/7/17) Additionally, state supe Paolo DeMaria was a guest on In Focus with Mike Kallmeyer over the weekend, discussing the upcoming graduation requirement changes and the possibility of whether they will actually happen. (Spectrum Communications, 5/6/17)
  4. Let’s
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  1. Our own Aaron Churchill is front and center in the Enquirer, opining on the benefits of private school vouchers for Ohio students. (Cincinnati Enquirer, 5/5/17)
  2. Chad, meanwhile, has been chatting to that nice Doug “Dog” Livingston about the e-school accountability loophole “of staggering breadth” that found its way into the House version of the state budget under less-than-clear circumstances. (Akron Beacon Journal, 5/3/17). Jim “Sherlock” Siegel is also on the case of the mysterious meandering amendment, with the aid of Chad “Watson” Aldis. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/3/17) Didn’t take long for the culprits behind the erroneous amendment language addition to come forward so Sherlock Siegel could write about them. So that’s that. (Columbus Dispatch, 5/4/17) Patrick “Cut to the Chase” O’Donnell – as is his wont – dispensed with the mystery all together and instead built the “it must be removed” case – no Watson required. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/4/17)
  3. The superintendent of Lorain City Schools this week renewed a raft of staff contracts, some for as long three years. This despite the fact that all such contracts become nonbinding as soon as the new district CEO is named by the Academic Distress Commission.
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  1. Budget season is silly season in Ohio, so the saying goes, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of education. In lieu of large scale changes, we’ve got a lot of noodling around the edges of policy and finance this time around. That often means that single sentences in a bill of thousands of pages can have significant impact. Our own Chad Aldis is quoted on just such a sentence, included in an amendment to the House version of the budget, which passed by a good margin yesterday. Chad calls the sentence a loophole of “staggering breadth”, carving out a very specific (and seemingly eternal) exemption from consequences of the state’s new charter sponsor evaluation. Repeat after me: “I’m just a bill. Yes I’m only a bill…” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/3/17)
  2. Meanwhile, another PD reporter has zeroed in on the complaints of suburban Columbus teachers and parents, who have a raft of them and take a scattershot approach to airing their grievances. Chad, who just so happens to also be a suburban Columbus parent, is quoted in his professional capacity in response to the structure, quality, and accountability of charter schools as they relate
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NOTE: The Education Committee of the Ohio Senate last week heard testimony on SB 85, a proposal that would expand Ohio’s private school voucher program. Fordham’s Chad Aldis was a witness at this hearing and these are his written remarks. You can watch archive video of the hearing here, courtesy of the Ohio Channel. Chad’s testimony begins at the 10:16 mark; questions from committee members and Chad’s answers begin at the 19:17 mark.

Thank you, Chair Lehner, Vice Chair Huffman, Ranking Member Sykes, and Senate Education Committee members for giving me the opportunity today to provide testimony in support of Senate Bill 85.

My name is Chad Aldis, and I am the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute is an education-focused nonprofit that conducts research, analysis, and policy advocacy with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Washington, D.C.

We've long believed that every parent should have access to a good school that meets his or her child’s educational needs. School choice in its many forms, including open enrollment, magnet schools, charter schools, homeschooling, and private school choice, is important when a zoned school—for whatever reason—isn’t a good fit.

While supportive...

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