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Group backing charter schools criticizes Ohio’s laws

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By Catherine Candisky
The Columbus Dispatch
March 16, 2015

A national group that promotes tax-funded, privately operated charter schools, gave Ohio a “C” for its state laws and policies allowing the growth of the alternative public schools.

In a report released yesterday, the Center for Education Reform, Ohio ranked 14th out of 42 states and District of Columbia that allow charter schools. Only a third scored above average.

“Little to no progress has been made over the past year. Charter school growth does continue at a steady, nearly linear pace nationally, especially in states with charter laws graded ‘A’ or ‘ B,’ but an even more accelerated pace would allow charter schools to play a more central role in addressing the demands and needs of our nation’s students,” said Kara Kerwin, president of the center.

Read the report here.

The report’s release comes as other charter-school supporters are pushing for a crackdown on Ohio charter schools, ensuring better accountability of the tax dollars the schools receive and student performance.

In response, Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled General Assembly have been working on several measures that would increase state aid to charter schools, improve accountability and transparency of operations, and close poor-performing schools.

The center’s report referred to some of those issues, including lack of sufficient funding for charters. The group says Ohio’s charter schools lag in per-pupil funding, along with aid for transportation and facilities.

Overall, the District of Columbia ranked 1st followed by Minnesota and Indiana, all earning “ A’s.” Kansas was last, earning an “F” along with Virginia and Maryland.

Ohio’s ranked 14th, earning 29.5 of a possible 55 points, and was among 19 states earning a “ C.”

The report criticized Ohio for providing only limited autonomy to charter schools, capping growth of the schools and inequitable funding.

The report suggests that the November 2014 election prevented some legislators from supporting pro-charter school bills and motivated others to push anti-charter bills.

In Ohio, Kasich’s state budget plan includes requirements that fiscal officers for charter schools be independent of sponsors and operators and that every sponsor be approved by the state Department of Education. Sponsors also would be prohibited from selling their services to their schools which many currently do.

In the House, legislation has been introduced including similar proposals as well as a requirement that the Department of Education publish an annual performance report of charters. The Senate has a committee studying possible reforms.

The efforts come after a pair of reports commissioned by the pro-charter Thomas B. Fordham Foundation criticized Ohio’s regulations and laws. The analysis found they favor for-profit management companies, encourage less oversight and allow poor-performing schools to remain open while keeping quality schools from locating in Ohio.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, about 124,000 students are attending 381 charter schools across the state.

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