Earlier this year, at a national education conference in Denver, Ohio’s $1 billion charter-school system came under fire, with criticism coming from a whole host of pro-charter voices. Simply put, Ohio’s system of charter or community schools is not even supported by strong supporters of charter schools.
If this seems surprising, well, it shouldn’t.
Ohio’s charter-school performance – or lack thereof – has been well-documented for quite some time. Stanford’s Center for Research of Educational Outcomes (CREDO), for example, has found that Ohio charter students learn less than Ohio students in traditional public schools (the equivalent of 36 days of learning in math and 14 in reading).
The National Education Association and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools have also taken shots at Ohio’s charter-school system, and Alex Medler, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, last year called Ohio the “Wild, Wild West” of charter schools.
That criticism is sharp, pointed, and overwhelming. The worst part is, we’re paying for it – in every sense of the word.
The state of Ohio does not directly fund charter schools. Instead, it forces traditional public school districts to subsidize charter schools with local tax revenue. Innovation Ohio, a progressive research group, discovered that roughly $290 million in local tax revenue is needed to offset the losses that Ohio districts endure as a result of charter-school funding.
That, in a word, is insane. Why are we giving taxpayer money to support a charter-school system that, according to experts, is one of the worst in the country?
Even the Ohio Supreme Court, in handing down its ruling in Hope Academy Broadway Campus v. White Hat Mgt., LLC, spoke out against Ohio charter schools, with Justices Judith Ann Lanzinger and William O’Neill criticizing both the quality of education and the lack of accountability regarding public funding.
There are approximately 123,000 students attending roughly 400 charter schools in Ohio. While some of these schools deserve praise for their performance, the vast majority do not. Public funding demands public accountability.
Unless we can create a market that rewards quality and the same level of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools, why should we give money to Ohio charters when their overall effectiveness is highly questionable?
In fact, rather than funding two systems – one of which is broken – shouldn’t we instead focus on strengthening public education, especially when our public schools have done a significantly better job of meeting and exceeding standards and expectations than charter schools have?
Ohio’s charter schools are a profit market for businesses that have lined the pockets of people who know the system is broken, and our public-school children are suffering because of it.
We’re already paying for charter schools with the lack of education our children receive. Let’s not add our hard-earned dollars on top of that.
Renée A. Middleton, Ph.D. is Dean of the Gladys W. & David H. Patton College of Education at Ohio University.