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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One in 3 Ohio Charters Receive all Their State Money from Money Meant for Better Performing Districts, and Other Observations

Well, our now annual report chronicling the state's funding transfer between local public school districts and charters is out. And the results are still not pretty for Ohio's embattled charter sector. The first year I did the report through Innovation Ohio. Last year, as this year, we published it through the Ohio Charter School Accountability Project's Know Your Charter website.

Here's what the new 2014-2015 funding and report card data show us:

  • 72.5 percent of all state charter funding went to charters that DO NOT outperform the local school district.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 charter schools receive all their state funding from higher performing local school districts.
  • 50 percent of the charter dollars that leave the Youngstown Schools go to charters that perform worse on the state report card.
  • 80 percent of all money sent to eSchools came from higher performing local school districts.
  • 92 percent of Ohio school districts (563 of 609) received less per pupil state funding because of the way Ohio funds its charter schools. 
I accumulated the data by receiving a list from the Ohio Department of Education, after a public records request, for all funding and students leaving districts for charters. I then just added all the state report card grades (plus Performance Index score) for all districts and charter schools.

Then, I compared how many report card measures districts outperformed charters and vice versa. If the district outperformed the charter on more measures, then the district was higher performing. If the charter outperformed the district on more measures, then the charter was higher performing. I could have done a GPA-type averaging, but the Ohio Department of Education has gone to great lengths to explain that a straight GPA is not how the state's overall grade will eventually be done.

So I decided to look at how many times each school type outperforms the other on the now 9 different measures. If they only receive comparable grades in 2 or 3 categories, then it's best of 2 or 3, and so on.

The numbers are simply extraordinary. In Big 8 urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown), nearly 2 in 3 dollars goes to charters that aren't any better performing than the Big 8 -- the districts that the state said so desperately needed charter schools nearly 20 years ago. Even Youngstown, which is so low performing the state said it needs to take over the district and essentially neuter the locally elected school board, has half its money go to worse performing districts.

And it's also true of each graded category. Take student growth. Of the $521.7 million sent from districts to charters when both schools had overall value-added grades for student growth, only $138.4 million went to a charter with a better grade. That means about 80% of the time, it did not. 

And for those who think it's unfair to compare charter and district (rather than building) performance, here is how WestEd classified Ohio charters in a 2009 report it did on the state's administration of federal charter school grants:

"As a public school districtcommunity schools are subject to State and Federal accountability requirements, which are reported on a Local Report Card."  (my emphasis)
You can't call charters districts for payment and grant purposes, then ask that they be compared with the lowest performing school buildings for accountability purposes.

The double whammy is the way charters are funded means that kids in 90% of Ohio's school districts get less state funding than the state says they need. 

This is nuts. But it's been this way for 3 decades.

While I'm encouraged that legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle are acknowledging the problem of forcing local taxpayers to subsidize state charter school payments, I won't be excited until I see that we have a fair funding system (and this is important for those who think I want to burn down the charter school house or something) FOR BOTH SYSTEMS.

Kids in districts and charters should receive the funding they need without one kid's funding stream adversely affecting another's. I don't think it's OK to short change kids in any school

Clearly, in the current system, charter school funding hurts kids who aren't in charters. That's not right and needs to be fixed. Now.

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