The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio's Charter School Sector

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Over 120,000 charter students in Ohio deserve the opportunity to receive an excellent education. But far too often, Ohio charters have produced mediocre results. In the most extensive evaluation of Ohio charters to date, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) recently found that Ohio charter-school students, on average, make less academic progress than their district counterparts.

Part of the problem has been Ohio’s incoherent charter-school law—a law that has too often failed to put students’ best interests first. Instead, in too many ways, it has protected powerful vested interests, smothered schools with red tape, starved even the best schools, and tolerated academic mediocrity.

But fixing Ohio’s charter law is no easy task. The law itself is roughly 40,000 words and has been amended nineteen times since its enactment in 1997. It contains many peculiar exceptions, loopholes, and restrictions.

Policymakers must know exactly what needs to be repaired and how best to make the fix. Authored by Bellwether Education Partners, a national education-consulting group, this report offers ten policy recommendations that, if implemented, will lead to stronger charter policy in Ohio.

These recommendations pivot around three central objectives that policymakers must focus on in a charter-reform bill:

  • Define governing relationships: Currently, Ohio charter law too vaguely defines the powers and responsibilities of each actor in the charter-governing system. State policymakers need to remedy this by more clearly and explicitly establishing the governing relationships in the charter-school structure.
  • Purge conflicts of interest: State policymakers should not tolerate permissive laws that allow adults to make dishonest gain at the expense of students’ best interest.
  • Help charters compete: At present, state policy treats Ohio charters as second-class public schools. They receive less overall taxpayer funding, garner scant facilities support, and are often at the mercy of traditional districts when it comes to student transportation. Now is the time to remedy charter-funding inequities.

The Ohio policymaking community is poised to tackle charter-school reform. This report, The Road to Redemption: Ten Policy Recommendations for Ohio’s Charter Sector, builds on the policy foundations laid in our 2006 charter-policy report, considers the latest developments in Ohio charter policy, and reflects some of the very best thinking nationally concerning charter-school policy.

Wise policymakers—those who care deeply about the twin principles of good governance and robust competition in our public institutions—will keep this report at their side in the coming days.

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If you have questions about the book, please email Aaron Churchill.