Ohio's biennial budget put some significant education policy changes into effect this month, many of which we're still sifting through. See our previous analyses on how many students are newly eligible for a private school voucher (hint: not many), and how many teachers will be re-tested in subject-area knowledge (hint: quite a few).

When it comes to charter school start-ups, eligibility would expand (based on last year's data) to include 16 new school districts. This is up from 23 school districts, for an increase of 41 percent. Under previous law, a start-up (as opposed to converting an existing district school to a charter ? which can happen anywhere geographically in the state) could only open in a ?challenged? school districts. This was defined as any of Ohio's Big 8 districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, or Youngstown), a district rated D or F (see here for a list of such districts last year), or a school district in Lucas County that was part of the original charter school pilot area a decade ago (eight school districts in total, one of which is Toledo and already counted under the Big 8 list).

The budget added to the definition of challenged school districts any that rank in the bottom five percent of all districts statewide (according to Performance Index score), regardless of their grade (A-F). If you haven't noticed by now, there's an obvious affinity for ranking systems in this year's budget; various sanctions (and rewards) will apply to schools, districts, and educators based on rolling or relative rankings (bottom or top xx percent) instead of absolute, fixed ratings. (Whether that's a worthwhile approach to spur improvement in K-12 education is a different conversation altogether.)

The new list of eligible school districts within which charters could start up (based on last year's data) is below. Notice that all of them earned a ?C? (Continuous Improvement) from the state but still rank in the bottom five percent of school districts.??


Newly eligible Ohio school districts within which charter school start-ups can operate


The eligibility could change once this year's statewide achievement data is released (in late August). But overall, Ohio can expect a significant increase in eligibility of districts that are rated C based on this new budget provision.

-Jamie Davies O'Leary and Amanda Pierce

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