Charters & Choice

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

Postsecondary enrollment marks a critical transition point for students after they graduate high school.  It’s important that students enroll in some form of postsecondary education opportunity beyond high school—whether that be college, advanced training, or the military. This is particularly true for low-income students and other underrepresented populations. Unfortunately, a 25-percentage-point difference exists between high- and low-poverty schools (52 percent and 77 percent, respectively) when it comes to enrolling in college in the first fall after high school graduation.

In Ohio, students have a variety of options that can help them transition from high school to college. Most people have heard of College Credit Plus (CCP), but the lesser known early college high schools (ECHS) provide an important pathway to college—particularly for low-income students.

In fact, according to the Ohio Department of Education, ECHS programs must prioritize:

  • Students who are underrepresented in regard to completing post-secondary education
  • Students who are economically disadvantaged, as defined by the Ohio Department of Education
  • Students whose parents did not earn a college degree

ECHS provide mostly low-income...

 
 


Ohio school report cards released

The Ohio Department of Education last week released much-anticipated school and district report cards. For the first time in six years, report cards included an overall grade. Here is an analysis of Ohio’s Urban 8 cities, comparing charter performance to that of district schools across several measures. While the data are dispiriting overall, some bright spots emerge especially among charter schools. Additionally, the Dayton Daily News provided an analysis of area charter school report cards. Kudos to several high performing charter schools in the Miami Valley.

 

Federal education funding for FY 2019 moves forward; includes boost for CSP

Last week, U.S. House and Senate members reached agreement on the education portion of a FY 2019 spending bill. Among other important features, the bill would provide $440 million for the Charter School Program (CSP), the highest-ever funding level in the program’s history. A good summary of the CSP and other provisions comes from EdWeek. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate; the House currently faces a September 30 deadline to vote. In a timely release, the National Charter School Resource Center is out with a new...

 
 


What’s slowing down the growth of charter schools?

Charter school growth in Ohio and around the country has slowed. Amy Wilkins, Senior Vice President of Advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, recently joined Todd Feinburg on his radio show to talk about why and the important role that charters play in the public education ecosystem. Listen here.  

DeWine’s plan for education and charter schools

Last week, Mike DeWine, Republican candidate for governor, released his education agenda. Although it didn’t focus on charter schools, he has pledged to hold online schools more accountable by establishing a pay-for-performance model that requires students to show competency on end-of-course exams before an online school receives all of its state aid. You can read his full plan here.

Cordray’s plan for education and charter schools

This week, Richard Cordray, Democratic candidate for governor, unveiled his plan for education. He would (among other things) directly fund all charter schools with state funds, permit only nonprofit charter operators, and apply all regulations that apply to traditional public schools to charter schools. Click here to read the full plan.

Charter school effects on district...

 
 

Among the most frequently heard concerns around charter schools is that they drain money from traditional districts, potentially harming students who stay behind. Yet another school of thought theorizes that charters encourage district improvements by injecting competition into a largely monopolistic system. A new study conducted by Matthew Ridley and Camille Terrier puts both these claims to the test using data from Massachusetts, a state that recently held a hotly debated and ultimately unsuccessful referendum on expanding charters.

To examine charters’ effects on district spending and achievement, the researchers rely on a 2011 reform that allowed charter school expansion in underperforming Massachusetts districts. They identify nine “expanding” districts, including Boston, where the charter share increased markedly post-reform, and then compare their spending and test-score growth in math and English language arts (ELA) to “non-expanding” districts whose charter share remained flat. The analysts use various statistical techniques, including a “synthetic control method,” to estimate the impacts of charter expansion in the years after reform (2011–12 through 2014–15).

In terms of fiscal impact, their study finds that charter expansions increased districts’ per-pupil expenditures. Post-reform, total per-pupil spending in expanding districts rose at a faster clip than non-expanding ones,...

 
 

 

Columbus Dispatch Editorial: Charter schools deserve fair rules for bus rides

The Columbus Dispatch editorialized this week on the transportation challenges facing charter schools. The editorial explains that charter schools and their families have been complaining of unreliable bus service from school districts for years and that a recent conflict between Columbus City Schools and local charter schools suggests that state officials need to address this persistent problem. The Dispatch also recognizes that all schoolchildren, whether attending a district or charter school, should receive the transportation that their parents’ tax dollars pay for.

A response to the popular question: “Do charter schools take districts’ money?”

James V. Shuls, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, wrote an op-ed in The 74. Shuls argues that you can believe charter schools take districts’ money away only if you think students, and the funding that comes with them, are district property.

Charter schools and unified enrollment systems

In recent years, unified student enrollment systems have become increasingly popular. Unified enrollment allows students to fill out one application, rank their top school choices (often including both district and...

 
 

 

National and Ohio charter school management structures

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) released their annual report, National Charter School Management Overview, which includes updated statistics on the management structure for every charter school in the country. In 2016-17, Ohio had 365 charter schools; 46 percent of those charters were operated independently, 26 percent were part of a Charter Management Organization (not-for-profit), and 28 percent were part of an Education Management Organization (for-profit).

What do Perkins Act changes mean for charter schools?

On August 1, President Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which renews the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The bill (passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate) authorizes more than $1 billion for states to use towards secondary and post-secondary training. NAPCS’s Senior Policy Advisor, Christy Wolfe, explains what this means for charter schools here.

A New Orleans charter school is graduating students who go straight to $20/hour jobs

Rooted, a charter public high school in New Orleans, has only been open for one year. And it’s already challenging traditional notions of what high school might look...

 
 

 

2018 EdNext Poll shows increased support for charter schools

A new poll from Education Next (EdNext) found growing support for charter schools, particularly amongst Republicans. Forty-four percent of respondents supported the expansion of charter schools (up from thirty-nine percent last year) and thirty-five percent were in opposition. EdNext found consistent support across a variety of groups including fifty-seven percent of Republicans, forty-nine percent of Hispanics, and forty-six percent of African Americans. You can find the National Alliance for Public Charter School’s reaction to the news here.

DeWine Files Lawsuit to Recover Public Funds Related to ECOT

On Tuesday, Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit to recover public funds disbursed by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT). The lawsuit alleges violations of fiduciary duty and seeks to hold the school’s founder and school officers personally liable. Because of the nature of the allegations, all Ohio charters should keep an eye on the suit’s proceedings. More information about the lawsuit can be found on the attorney general's website.

New report examines why independent charters outperform district-operated autonomous schools

The Reinventing America's Schools Project at the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) released a ...

 
 

 

New report on the emergence of non-district authorizers

Over the last five years, a significant shift has occurred within the national charter school landscape: for the first time, most new charter schools are being authorized by entities other than local school districts. If this trend continues, it could have both positive and negative implications for the pace of charter school growth, quality of charter schools, quality of oversight, and attributes of newly approved schools. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers’ (NACSA) new report examines this shift.

 

The myth of Ohio’s “for profit” charter school system

Gallons of ink have been spilled documenting the missteps of a few Ohio for-profit charter operators. Unfortunately, as Aaron Churchill explains, the high-profile controversies surrounding these politically active titans have stoked a narrative that paints all charters as “corporatizers” out to make a buck. Churchill argues that the for-profit narrative is both misleading and not particularly helpful if the true goal is student achievement.

 

Top charter school networks share college completion success tips

Education writer Richard Whitmire explains in an op-ed this week how charter schools have developed a way to help...

 
 

Since the inception of Ohio’s charter school program in 1998, gallons of ink have been spilled documenting the missteps of a few charter operators. The most highly scrutinized have been the for-profit operators White Hat Management (R.I.P.), along with Altair Management and IQ Innovations, the companies with whom the felled ECOT contracted.

Unfortunately, the high-profile controversies surrounding these for-profit (and politically active) titans have stoked a narrative that paints all charters as “corporatizers” out to make a buck. With politicians routinely using this storyline to score political points, this notion has been amplified further. Just this week Ohio Democratic Chair David Pepper released a statement calling the state home to a “corrupt for-profit charter school system.”

There is no excuse for either corporate cronyism or government corruption. But these for-profit tall tales fail to tell the whole truth about charter schools. Let’s review the key points.

First, it’s inaccurate to call charter schools for-profits. Just like most museums, libraries, and hospitals, charter schools are organized as nonprofit organizations. In Ohio, all charter schools are officially considered public benefit corporations, which under state law must be a nonprofit entity. Moreover, charter schools are public schools—and, again,...

 
 

 

Governor Kasich signs HB 87 and SB 216 into law

Last Friday, Governor Kasich signed into law two pieces of legislation that will affect charter schools—HB 87 and SB 216. HB 87 (which was signed with a number of amendments) will make changes to rules around community school audits. SB 216, on the other hand, will revamp Ohio’s teacher evaluation system, tweak teacher licensure provisions, allow districts to administer paper and pencil assessments to third graders, and make a variety of changes related to online charter schools. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools praised the bill in a statement they released last Friday.

Ohio Supreme Court rules on ECOT

More than two years of litigation appears to be coming to an end. On Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings and determined that the state acted lawfully when it ordered the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to repay $80 million in tax dollars for unverified enrollment. You can learn more about the court’s decision here.

LeBron James’ I Promise School

LeBron James helped to open a new school in Akron last week that’s drawing deserved praise from across...

 
 

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