Ohio Gadfly Daily

Yesterday, Ohio State Senator Shannon Jones (R- Clearcreek Twp.) introduced Senate Bill 5, which would dramatically overhaul public collective bargaining in Ohio (which has been in place for roughly 28 years).? The bill would prohibit state employees from engaging in collective bargaining and make massive changes to local collective bargaining laws and local public union rights, impacting everyone from firefighters to nurses, prison guards to teachers. Those around Capitol Square oughtn't be surprised ? after all, as a candidate Governor John Kasich expressed his concerns with public-sector unions and famously vowed to ?break the back of organized labor in the schools.?

Speaking of education unions, here's a peek at what changes could be in store for teachers and school districts in the Buckeye State if the bill passed as-is:

  • Health insurance as a subject of collective bargaining would be prohibited; district management would choose health insurance offerings.
  • Districts and other public employers would be prohibited from paying more than 80% of health insurance cost for employees.
  • State law regarding leave time for teachers would be scrapped; instead, school boards would adopt leave polices describing how leave is accrued, how it can be used, and how it can be
  • ...

Last night lawmakers in the Ohio House Education Committee heard testimony regarding House Bill 21 ?legislation that would, among other things, grant a professional educator license to Teach For America alums teaching in Ohio. For the second week in a row, the conversation steered into interesting territory about the merits of TFA (last week, Terry and two teachers from Fordham-authorized, high-performing charters testified on the bill's behalf). This week the bill was amended so that the provision would not only let alums get licensed here, but would also open up alternative licensure pathways so that the actual program could take root in Ohio, something which Fordham has been pushing for years. This piece of legislation would finally bring it to fruition.

As an alumna of the program and someone who's lived in other states and cities not only amenable to TFA but actually thrilled about it, these conversations among lawmakers continue to shock me. Many lawmakers admitted that prior to last week's testimony (during which bright alums like Abbey Kinson and Jenna Davis wowed them with stories of their kids achieving stellar academic results), they'd never heard of the program. Others illustrated glaring ? if accidental...


In a New York Times article this week, Sam Dillon examined the Obama administration's $4 billion attempt to turn around the country's worst schools and highlighted Ohio's capital city's $20 million effort to remake seven of the city's most troubled schools. One school, Champion Middle School, has for decades been a poster child for failed schools and failed turnaround efforts.

As we noted late last year, the dysfunction at Champion is chronic. In 2001, only 23 percent of the school's sixth graders were proficient in reading. A decade later and after multiple turnaround efforts (including new principals and teachers over the years) the figure was just above 26 percent and math scores had actually slid from 33 percent proficient to just 23 percent proficient. These are bleak numbers indeed and they offer a fairly stark indictment of the whole turnaround enterprise.

Yet, as Dillon reported, ???because leading schools out of chronic failure is harder than managing a successful school ??? often requiring more creative problem-solving abilities and stronger leadership, among other skills ??? the supply of principals capable of doing the work is tiny.??? The nation's schools of education have not been generating the talent necessary...


In today's Ohio Education Gadfly, Jamie, Bianca, and I explore what's missing from the debate around Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Akron mom who was jailed for nine days and convicted of tampering with documents in order to send her two children to a school outside their home district.

Many are calling it a ???Rosa Parks moment for education.??? Civil rights and political activists are pleading with the governor to pardon Williams-Bolar (and he has asked the Ohio Parole Board to review the case). Kevin Huffman noted in the Washington Post, ???She looked at her options, she looked at the law, she looked at her kids. And she made a choice.???

But did she really look at all of her options? Lost among the clarion calls for expanding school choice to help parents like Ms. Williams-Bolar are key questions. Besides falsifying documents to send her kids outside of Akron Public Schools, did Williams-Bolar have other options? If so, why didn't she use them?

In fact, Williams-Bolar did have legal school-choice options, more than most Ohio families, including:

Intra-district transfer. The Akron Public Schools allows students to attend a school other than their local...


Last week the Ohio House Education Committee held hearings related to several education bills currently on the table, among them HB 21, which aims to lift the ironclad moratorium on virtual e-schools, grant a professional educator license to graduates of Teach For America wishing to teach in the Buckeye State, and require the use of student performance data in evaluating teachers. Fordham's Terry Ryan, along with two teachers from Fordham-authorized charter schools, testified in support of the bill. (Read their testimonies here, here, and here.)

As we've noted before, this bill is a new iteration of Senate Bill 180 from the fall of 2009, for which Terry testified back then. What's different this time around, however, is that a GOP-controlled House is likely to go further than the Democratic-controlled House of a year-and-a-half ago, and push for bolder changes in each of these areas (and others). While Fordham supports the provisions of HB 21, the legislature can, and should, go further that merely granting licensure to TFA alums, lifting e-school caps, and requiring value-added data. As Terry said:


?much has changed just in the last year and change is happening fast in states across


Ohio's EdChoice Scholarship Program, a voucher program for students attending chronically underperforming schools, will begin to accept applications for the 2011-2012 school year tomorrow, February 1. EdChoice is a state-funded program that gives students who attend underperforming public schools a voucher worth up to $5,000 to go to a private school of their choice.

According to School Choice Ohio, which works to protect and expand children's educational options in the Buckeye State, 85,453 Ohio students are eligible to apply for the public voucher for the coming school year. However, because of a state-mandated cap on enrollment only 14,000 students are permitted to participate in the program.

To be eligible for one of the coveted vouchers students must attend one of the 197 schools rated academic watch (D) or academic emergency (F) by the state for two of the past three years.? During the 2010-2011 school year the voucher program almost reached the statutory cap of 14,000 students with just a little over 13,000 participating in the program.? Participation in the voucher program has steadily increased since its inception in 2006, and this year's participation will most likely be on the same path. Chad Aldis, Executive Director...

Guest Blogger

It's National School Choice Week ? the first of its kind. And now, thanks to Gov. Kasich making it official, it's also Ohio School Choice Week.

Close to 1,000 Ohioans have attended events across the state this week to celebrate.

This week's Cap City event brought together legislators from both parties, education reform leaders from across the state, school principals, public school board members, and skeptics. Featured panelists included Ohio Representative Matt Huffman; Ohio Senator Kris Jordan; School Choice Ohio Executive Director Chad Aldis; Terry Ryan of the Fordham Institute, and others.

Terry highlighted Dayton, Fordham's hometown, as a place where a large percentage of district students have exerted choice and attend area charters, which are performing better academically than their district counterpart schools. Referencing Fordham's on-the-ground work, ?Our experience in Dayton is not a panacea; it's a tool? (Hannah News Service; subscription required).

The discussion, which centered on new ways to expand school options for families while keeping high standards of quality and accountability, was encouraging as Ohio heads into a tough year financially and will have to think innovatively about how best to serve students across the state.

Speaker of the...


A recently introduced piece of legislation (House Bill 21) would qualify Teach For America alums for a professional educator license in Ohio. (The bill contains many other important provisions regarding virtual charters, use of Ohio's value-added metrics in grades 4-8 for teacher evaluations, etc. ? so expect a fuller analysis of the bill from us later.)

In fact, the details of HB 21 are strongly reminiscent of last fall's SB 180, for which Terry and teachers from a Fordham-sponsored charter school provided testimony.

We thought SB 180's provision to grant professional licensure to TFA alums who had a track record of excellence serving poor students (but in another state) was an excellent idea then, and we think it's a good idea now. HB 21 would open up a pathway for TFA alums struggling to get licensed in Ohio to be put directly on the path to licensure; they would no longer be placed on long-term substitute licenses and fight with rigid licensure requirements just to teach in the Buckeye State. This is a promising way to keep TFA alums?from going the way of Ohio's insidious?brain drain?(many leave, expressing frustration that the state doesn't want...


As an authorizer of two charter schools in Columbus, we've heard our fair share of stories about the district not being very cooperative with them (in the way of busing, facilities, etc.). Today's Columbus Dispatch ran an op-ed by the vice president of the Columbus Board of Education about the latest egregious example of the district undermining high-performing charter schools, one that involved Fordham-authorized ? Columbus Collegiate Academy ? the highest performing middle school in Columbus and the second best urban charter middle school in the entire state. If you care about educational opportunities for poor kids (94 percent of CCA's students), this will make your blood boil.

CCA, along with two other high-performing charters, pursued a lease for one of the district's vacant buildings. The district opted to lease the building to ?Groove U? ? a ?one-of-a-kind music industry school offering certificates in music business and/or music production? that Columbus board VP Stephanie Groce admits sounds ?interesting.? The problem is that Groove U submitted no evidence of past success when it comes to student achievement. Why did the district deny the lease to the charter schools?? Groce explains:

Three other proposals were submitted for the...


I know I'm the last one to the party on this one but I just got around to seeing Waiting for Superman this weekend. Fordham staff have already weighed in with lots of great insight (see here, here, here, and here) but I have one comment about the film positing ?we know what works.?

I saw the movie on Saturday coming off of a multi-day conference in Nashville with leaders and key staffers of PIE Network organizations. For those of you who don't know, the PIE Network is a coalition of statewide education advocacy organizations that have made serious dents in improving education policy in their respective states. Colorado Succeeds was instrumental in helping craft and pass that state's landmark teacher reform bill, which overhauled teacher evaluations, tenure, forced hiring and placement, and seniority-based reductions in force ? in other words, precisely the types of policy changes that Waiting for Superman calls for implicitly.? ConnCAN, Advance Illinois, Tennessee SCORE, and several others have brokered equally critical policy and legislative changes. To hear from leaders of these organizations was energizing, inspiring,...