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Monday, March 2, 2015

National Charter School Advocates: Ohio's the Worst

For years now, I've been saying Ohio is unique among the 50 states for its crazy charter school system. And last week, many prominent charter school supporters and advocates agreed.
"Then you have folks at the low end, of which Ohio is a strong case."
"There are operators who are exploiting things."
"Ohio needs a top-to-bottom overhaul of its charter school sector."
These are all quotes from prominent national, pro-charter figures (some of whom have criticized me for being unfair to charters in the past). But the data are what the data are. When your charter sector receives more Fs than As, Bs and Cs combined on your report cards, there's a problem. When that's being done at the expense of state resources for the 90% of kids who aren't in charter schools, it compounds the problem.

Yet there remain folks who cling to the fantasy that Ohio's charter school sector, on the whole, is performing just fine. I really hope this newly revealed national perception shames the legislature into the bold, necessary action our kids need. Ohio's a joke on this issue. You know how we, as Ohioans, have mocked West Virginia over the years as backward? Well, that's exactly what the rest of the country is doing to us on charter schools. And I'm mad. Because it didn't have to be this way.

But because of huge campaign contributions made over the years (Bill Lager of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow and David Brennan of White Hat Management have contributed more than $6.5 million to politicians and received about 1 out of every 4 dollars spent on Ohio charters since they started), here we are. Here we are with my two kids losing significant state revenue so that big campaign contributors can collect money. Here we are with nearly one-third of all Ohio dropouts coming from those big contributors. Here we are with a sector whose overall failure is so staggering it borders on unbelievable. Here we are staring at three decades of failure -- an entire generation of our children -- with an unprecedented opportunity to make right what has gone so wrong.

Will our leaders live up to their title? I pray they do.

The time for debate is over. Ohio's charter school sector -- save for a few really great schools in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and a few other cities -- sucks. Only the deadest of dead-enders can't see it. Our kids in both charter and local public schools deserve better than this now $8.3 billion boondoggle.

We need to shut down the worst schools, ensure all financial records of all schools, sponsors and operators that pertain to these schools are open for public inspection and stop pitting parent against parent with our crazy funding system.

Let's do this. Now.

West Virginia would.