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 a previous post, we looked at Fordham’s recently-updated interactive map of the nation’s schools to compare private school options in Milwaukee, a city with the nation’s oldest private school voucher program, with those in Minneapolis-St. Paul. In contrast to the Twin Cities, which lack such programs, in Milwaukee, we found a number of private schooling options located in some of the high-poverty areas lacking charter schools, areas we have been calling “charter school deserts.”

In recent years, new voucher or tax credit scholarship programs have been proposed in a few key states, only to face defeat. In deeply blue New York, a proposal for a tax credit scholarship program died in 2015 despite a diverse, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and community activists—including the state’s Democrat governor—supporting the programs.

Meanwhile, in deeply red Texas, the Republican-controlled state Senate passed both a tax credit scholarship and an ESA for special needs students only to have the Republican-controlled House refuse to consider either bill. And in Colorado, local politics led to the demise of the Douglas County voucher program as voters elected several anti-voucher school board members in 2017.

To see how private school choice programs could have impacted...


NOTE: On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, we released a report entitled Shortchanging Ohio’s charter students: An analysis of charter funding in fiscal years 2015–17. This is an abridged version of the report’s introduction and conclusion. You can read the full report and findings here.

All students deserve equal access to an excellent K–12 education. Yet the quality of their educational opportunities shouldn’t hinge on zip codes, family backgrounds, or the type of school they attend. Sadly, due in part to polarizing politics, Ohio has long underresourced its public charter schools, shortchanging tens of thousands of needy students in the process and leaving them with uneven opportunities.

Fordham and others have taken pains through the years to document this injustice. Based on data from 2001–02, we published an analysis in 2004 revealing massive funding gaps in our hometown of Dayton. That analysis found that the city’s charters received about $3,000 per student less than the district. Unfortunately, the situation did not improve. Ten years later, using 2010–11 data, an analysis by funding expert Larry Maloney found charter funding gaps of a similar size.

States and cities with high-performing charter sectors typically combine strong oversight with sufficient funding. For...



Lower state report card grades open the door for more charters and vouchers

Now that Ohio’s safe harbor provisions have ended, there’s more opportunity for voucher and charter school expansion. Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell explains that “eligible areas for vouchers will double and areas where charter schools are allowed to start will rise more than 600 percent for next fall.” However, Fordham’s Aaron Churchill says not to expect an influx of charter schools. Because the challenged school district list wasn’t official until December, potential new charters will have very little time to complete all the requirements for opening a new school in 2019.

The school choice “draining money” myth

Yesterday, Choice Media announced the premiere of its new video, which tackles the myth that charter and private schools take funding away from traditional district schools. In the video, Choice Media’s Founder and Executive Director explains the “three blindfolds” it takes to believe the myth and gives a counter argument. Bowden argues that “the myth is meant to protect a billion dollar status quo, even when that status quo isn’t doing right by kids or isn’t doing right by a particular kid.”




Automatic charter closure questioned

Ohio’s automatic closure law closes persistently low-performing charter schools. Not enforced the last few years because of safe harbor, fifty-two Ohio charter schools just received notice that if their performance doesn’t improve next year, then they will be forced to close. Fordham’s Aaron Churchill breaks down the issue in a new piece and notes, “given the significant policy shifts since the enactment of Ohio's original automatic closure law, legislators should revisit the state’s automatic closure criteria.”

Ohio’s urban charters are now better and more cost-effective

Neerav Kingsland, a managing partner at The City Fund, recently wrote a blog about charter school performance and funding in Ohio, citing Fordham’s recent report card analysis. Kingsland explains that urban charter schools still have some work to do, but it appears that they’re now better than Ohio’s urban traditional schools at increasing student learning and doing so while receiving less money.  

A call for better facilities and funding for charters

This week, Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), wrote a piece that appeared in The 74 in which she discusses the...

Susan Rhodes

In December 2003, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Daniel Golden interviewed me about the identification and admissions policies of our district’s gifted program. I served as the gifted coordinator of a district with fifteen thousand students in pre-K through twelfth grade. I was instrumental in the movement to create the district’s first gifted magnet school for students in first through fifth grade, that opened in the year 2000. Our team had done extensive research on developing an identification process that would closely reflect the demographics of the entire district. The conversation with Mr. Golden was focused on admissions of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and the impact of No Child Left Behind. The conversation began with the mechanics of our district’s identification system and federal mandates and ended with forever changing the course of one family.

I described to Mr. Golden our district’s identification process of administering the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test to all kindergarten students at the end of January each year. In March, students receiving a score of 1.5 standard deviations above the group norm were then invited to learn more about the gifted magnet school. Teachers and parents could also nominate students who demonstrated achievement at one grade...


With Ohio’s safe harbor provisions now in the rearview mirror, formal consequences for poor school ratings have reemerged. Among them is the automatic closure law, first enacted in 2006, which requires low-performing charter schools to permanently close. Recently, the Ohio Department of Education released data revealing that fifty-two of Ohio’s 311 charter schools are at-risk of closure under this statute (including one sponsored by our sister organization, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation). Taken together, the schools on this “watch list” enrolled 15,557 students last year, about the size of the Dayton Public School District. Charters are in jeopardy of closure when assigned F’s on specific measures—e.g., performance index and value added—based on their most recent data; schools must close when they receive two years of low ratings within a three-year window.  

There are rumors about efforts to roll back the automatic closure statute. That’s not surprising given the severity of the penalty and the sharp rise in the number of charters in jeopardy of closure. As my former colleague Jamie Davies O’Leary has reported, only four schools sat on the watch list in the year prior to safe harbor. While not every school on the...



Ohio teacher shares her experience with online teaching

Last week, Jessica Creager, a high school social studies teacher for Great River Connections Academy, published a piece on the Columbus Moms Blog discussing what it’s like teaching in an online environment. Creager, an experienced classroom teacher before joining Great River six months ago, talks about the transition from a traditional classroom to online and what it has meant to her.

Dayton Early College Academy completes building purchase

The Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) recently purchased the downtown building that currently houses their middle school, which they have leased since 2016. Though no renovation plans are currently in the works, DECA Superintendent Judy Hennessey notes that owning the building makes it more likely they’ll pursue future facility improvements.

Charter schools and content-rich curriculum

In a recent piece, Fordham’s Robert Pondiscio explains that if a knowledge-rich curriculum is your favorite flavor of education reform, school choice is no side issue; it’s a proof point. He discusses the importance of Core Knowledge—especially for disadvantaged students, explains that charter schools are far more likely to adopt Core Knowledge than traditional district schools, and notes several...


This is the final Ohio Charter News Weekly of 2018. We'll pick back up on January 5, 2019. Happy holidays!


Pathway to Success: Profile of Toledo School for the Arts

Fordham released the latest in its Pathway to Success series this week. It features Toledo School for the Arts, one of Ohio’s oldest charter schools that was forged from concerns about the state of arts education. This profile shows how one specialized charter school has been able to tap into students’ interests, focusing and inspiring them to cultivate their talents. You can find the profile here. If you’d like for Fordham to feature your school or a student’s story in an upcoming report, contact Madison Yoder.

Auditor recommends changes to e-school funding

Last week, the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office released a report that details flaws that it sees in how Ohio funds e-schools and offers solutions for how the state should move forward. Some recommendations include: Clarifying how e-schools will be evaluated under the current system; exploring best practices for e-school funding, including performance-based funding; considering whether the Education Department’s duties should be divided or restructured; and more.




Toledo’s charter schools on par with districts

The Toledo Blade recently published a story comparing the advantages, criticisms, and performance of Toledo area charter schools to traditional public schools. The author (using data) explains that while charter schools typically perform similarly to district schools, for many families, the appeal of charters often extends beyond academics. As one parent said, “I’m totally sold on the charter school as far as small school class sizes, the individuality the kids get, and just the love that all the administrators show.”

Communities in Schools expands its reach to charters

Communities in Schools of Central Ohio has helped Columbus City School’s students overcome at-home challenges and improve performance, attendance, and behavior for 25 years. The group recently expanded its work to charter schools, including two of the Graham Schools. You can read more about the work they’re doing for students and families here

Ohio’s first tuition-free, public classical school to open in Toledo

More news from Toledo: Ohio’s first public, tuition-free classical school, the Northwest Ohio Classical Academy, is expected to open next year. The K-8 academy is expected to serve around 250 students and will...

Lauren Morando Rhim

In a recent commentary on this blog, I expressed concern regarding the growth of specialized charter schools: that is, schools designed solely or primarily to educate students with disabilities. Regrettably, my commentary failed to convey the nuance this complex and important topic deserves. The National Center for Special Education Charter Schools (NCSECS), and I as its founding executive director, support the creation of a wide range of high-quality educational environments for students with disabilities. And many of the specialized charter schools currently operating across the country are providing excellent and legally compliant educational options to students.

While I support the concept of specialized charter schools, I do so in ways that are highly context-specific, and with an awareness of the risks these schools can create. Continued authorization and growth of specialized charter schools requires care and precision given the potential unintended consequences, which could include: limiting choices for students, driving students into unnecessarily restrictive settings, and decreasing accountability and expectations. Each of these risks is elaborated more fully below along with a few examples of why these apprehensions require consideration.

Limitation of choice

Growth of specialized charter schools designed to provide parents with choice could have the unintended consequence...