Quality Choices

Nationally and in Ohio, we strive to develop policies and practices leading to a lively, accessible marketplace of high-quality education options for every young American (including charter schools, magnet schools, voucher programs, and online courses), as well as families empowered and informed so that they can successfully engage with that marketplace.


Our many choice-related blog posts are listed below.

Fordham’s choice experts:

In the waning days of January, Chiefs for Change—a nonprofit, bipartisan network comprising state and district education chiefs, including Ohio’s own superintendent, Paolo DeMaria—issued a report containing a series of recommendations on how to improve career and technical education (CTE).

The report presents a compelling case for why stronger CTE programs are necessary, namely that the United States lags behind other leading countries when it comes to quality career preparation during high school. In places like Germany, Finland, and Switzerland, students in grades ten through twelve take a “substantial, coherent course of study focused on a particular career area comprising five to six credits or more.” In the United States, only 6 percent of students do the same.

International differences in education models aren’t necessarily a bad thing. But the lack of adequate career preparation in America has led to some troubling consequences. The U.S. Department of Labor reported a record-high 7.1 million job openings in October 2017, but they also reported approximately the same number of unemployed adults—an indication that the skills and preparation of job-seekers didn’t match the needs of employers. Data also show that there are shortages in middle-skill jobs that don’t...


This is the second in a series of interviews called “moms and choice,” (the first can be read here) in which I talk with mothers who—because of issues like bullying, weak academics, poor instruction, insufficient special education services, or a belief that a kid may simply do better elsewhere—chose a different school for their sons and daughters. Their stories are all different, but there is a common thread that runs through them: Their children were not getting what they needed—or deserved—and staying where they were became untenable.

This interview is with Maureen Kelleher, whose daughter began her education at a local charter school in Chicago, Illinois. Maureen is a senior writer and editor at Education Post, who previously spent a decade as a reporter, blogger, and policy analyst.

How did school choice become an important issue—and cause—for you?

In today’s Chicago, school choice is the reality for many families, especially when kids are in high school. About three-quarters of Chicago high school students choose a school that isn’t their neighborhood high school, and increasing numbers of families are choosing somewhere other than their zoned neighborhood school.

There’s actually a lot of push here from parents to make sure that...


In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, pundits and analysts were hyper-focused on rural communities. NPR wrote that voters there played a “big part” in the election, and The New York Times claimed that the election “highlighted a growing rural-urban split.” Many in the education sphere predicted that all this attention might convince policymakers to finally focus in on rural schools and their unique struggles.

Yet two years later, the majority of education debates continue to revolve around urban and suburban communities—at least in Ohio. That’s mostly a function of size. According to recent data, the Buckeye State has 229 rural school districts serving over 250,000 students—15 percent of the state’s student population. Urban districts comprise over 28 percent of the population, and suburban districts over 33 percent. Together, they make up the majority of the state’s students. It’s understandable that they would dominate policy discussions.

But even considering their small size, rural districts should get more attention than they do. More than half are considered high poverty, and almost half of their students are economically disadvantaged. In places with steep poverty rates, rural schools face many of the same issues as urban districts, including lower...

Nina Rees

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the new state legislature can score a major win for educational equality and opportunity by providing more funding for public charter school facilities.

A 2015 survey of Ohio charter schools funded by the U.S. Department of Education and conducted by the Charter School Facilities Initiative found that more than half of respondents’ schools are located in buildings that weren’t designed to be schools. Many of these facilities lack basic school features such as cafeterias, nurse’s offices, or science labs. A third of Ohio charter schools report having no outside space at all for playgrounds or athletic fields.

As with most education disparities, such deficiencies affect poor and minority students most. The majority of Ohio’s brick-and-mortar charter schools are located in the state’s big eight urban cities, serving primarily black and Hispanic students. Despite the challenges around finding and paying for good learning spaces, low-income, black charter school students in Cleveland are achieving better results on average than their district peers.

It’s this success — along with qualities like safety, innovation, and more time in class — that make charter schools so popular among parents. But while successful charter schools would like to...



Ohio House Speaker discusses education priorities

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder recently sat down with the Ohio legislative press corps to discuss his priorities for the year. Householder spoke about a number of education issues, including Ohio’s school funding formula, school security, and his belief that charter school management companies be limited to non-profit entities. In terms of funding, he’d like to see a simpler and fairer formula but doesn’t see a reason to directly fund charter schools.

Columbus charter school welcomes community leader

KIPP Columbus is currently conducting a series of leadership breakfasts, which give students opportunities to interact with successful community members like Mayor Andrew Ginther, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, and (most recently) Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake. During his recent visit, Drake talked about leadership, decision-making, and the importance of one’s core values.  

Can charter schools deny students?

Shaelyn Macedonio of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) recently wrote a blog addressing the misconception that charter schools can deny admission to some students. She explains how charter schools, like all public schools, serve students regardless of their income, religion, or ethnicity.

Rebuild America’s...


Last summer, President Trump signed into law the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. Referred to as Perkins V, it’s the long-awaited reauthorization of the federal law that governs how states fund and oversee career and technical education (CTE) programs.

Historically, Perkins federal funding has allocated more than $1 billion a year on top of state and local contributions to CTE. 2019 will be no different. Thanks to an appropriations bill passed by Congress in September, as well as funding changes included in the new law, Perkins state grants will increase overall by $70 million this year. The U.S. Department of Education released estimated allocation numbers last week, and the breakdown for state grants indicates Ohio should receive over $46 million in 2019, which is $2.5 million more than its 2018 allocation—an increase of nearly 6 percent.

More funding for CTE, even a relatively modest increase, is good news. But what’s even more important is that the reauthorization, Perkins V, gives both states and local recipients more flexibility in how they spend their allocated funds. The law also allows the U.S. Department of Education to award grants for innovation—which means the Buckeye...



Op-ed calls for increase in charter school facility funding

Nina Rees, President and CEO for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), and Fordham’s Chad Aldis wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Plain Dealer this week. Rees and Aldis discuss how charter schools are thriving, despite lackluster funding and how “Governor DeWine and the new state legislature can score a major win for educational equality and opportunity by providing more funding for public charter school facilities.”

Toledo’s bilingual charter school receives praise

The Toledo Blade published a piece yesterday highlighting the impressive work and growth of Toledo’s only bilingual school, Toledo SMART Bilingual Elementary. The K-5 charter school opened in 2014 with the hopes of catering to Toledo’s Spanish speaking population. Many parents value the school, reporting that they’ve noticed drastic improvements in their children’s abilities to speak and comprehend both English and Spanish since enrolling.

Debate on Ohio charter school funding

William Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Advocacy of School Funding, and Fordham’s Aaron Churchill recently published pro and con op-eds in the Columbus Dispatch on providing charter school students with more...


Last Sunday, the Columbus Dispatch ran contrasting op-eds on the question, “Should Ohio charter schools receive more state funding?” I authored one of them, and in it I highlight the fact that charters receive far less public funding than school districts to educate pupils with comparable needs. I make the case that underfunding charters is simply unfair to students choosing a different type of school for their education. William Phillis, a harsh critic who’s called charters “parasites,” authored the opposing editorial. He trots out several tired charter canards and half-truths, notes the misconduct of the now-shuttered Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, and implies that charters misuse funds on things such as marketing and administration.

Let me first say that I agree with Phillis that the responsible stewardship of public dollars matters immensely. Just like districts, charters should be leveraging their resources to do the most for students. If a charter school is spending excessive amounts on marketing or administration, its governing board should reprioritize its expenditures. The same principle applies to district boards; they too should be combing through their budgets to ensure dollars are being well spent.

But two of his claims require strong refutation. The...

Todd Ziebarth

Earlier this week, we released the tenth edition of our annual state charter school laws rankings report. Since we released the first edition of it in January 2010, three states enacted brand-new legislation relatively well aligned with the model law (Alabama in 2015, Maine in 2011, and Washington in 2012 and 2016). Between 2010 and 2018, thirty-seven states made policy improvements that resulted in increases in their scores in the report. States made the most progress in lifting caps, strengthening charter school and authorizer accountability, and making significant improvements to their facilities policies for charters.

Some key takeaways from this year’s rankings include:

  • For the fourth year in a row, Indiana has the nation’s strongest charter school law in the country, ranking No. 1 (out of forty-four). Indiana’s law does not cap charter school growth, includes multiple authorizers, and provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability. Indiana has also made notable strides in recent years to provide more equitable funding to charter schools, although some work remains to be done.
  • Georgia made the biggest jump in this year’s rankings, moving up eleven spots from No. 27 to No. 16. Georgia made this leap because it enacted legislation
  • ...


New report on Ohio charter school funding

The Fordham Institute released a report this week detailing how Ohio “shortchanges” charter school students. The study, using Ohio funding data from fiscal years 2015–17, revealed that charter schools face massive inequities in funding compared to district schools. The analysis breaks down revenue and expenses statewide and in the cities where most Ohio charters are located. Coverage in the Columbus Dispatch can be found here.  

Online charter school success stories

Two students of Ohio Connections Academy (OCA) recently shared their experiences in the online school. The Marietta Times published an interview with Sarah Yoak, a seventeen year old OCA student who is enrolled in the renowned BalletMet Trainee Program. And the Columbus Dispatch published an op-ed from Jessica Nichols, a fifteen year old OCA student who holds an associate’s degree from Lakeland Community College and expects to graduate from Cleveland State University with a bachelor’s degree next year. Both students discuss how learning online has met their unique needs and how the flexibility has allowed them to follow their dreams.

NAPCS releases model charter school law report

This week, the National Alliance...