Ohio, the charter school world is making fun of you.Ohio’s $1 billion charter school system was the butt of jokes at a conference for reporters on school choice in Denver late last week, as well as the target of sharp criticism of charter school failures across the state.The shots came from expected critics like teachers unions, but also from pro-charter voices, as the state considers ways to improve how it handles charters …
No sector — not local governments, school districts, court systems, public universities or hospitals — misspends tax dollars like charter schools in Ohio.
“The Ohio Department of Education has taken control of eight charter schools and has initiated the process of closing four for poor academic performance, among them one enrolling about 138 children in Canton. … Two in Cleveland — Villaview Community School and Cleveland Community School — failed to educate special-needs children despite the state working with the schools on the issue in the past.“They just weren’t providing what they were supposed to be providing,” Charlton said.The other two academically failing charter schools — Imagine on Superior Academy in Canton and Imagine Cleveland Academy — are operated by Virginia-based Imagine Schools. The for-profit company has been criticized for charging its schools what the state has called exorbitant rent. The rent, in turn, is used to pay back private investors who buy up the charter school property then lease it back to the school management company.
These stories all have been told before, though not as rapid-fire and in as quick succession. What they indicate is pretty clear: We desperately need real, substantive charter school reform. Now. The Ohio Senate is currently considering SB 148, which would be a meaningful improvement on the current situation. However, it still doesn’t make it easier for the state to shut down poor performing charters, nor does it fix a funding system that far too often forces local property taxpayers to subsidize the state funding losses to woefully under-performing charter schools.To be clear, there are a few quite exemplary charter schools out there. And I want to see them thrive in more places around this state. So this is in no way directed at the Breakthrough Schools, or DECA or Columbus Prep, or the Toledo School for the Arts. This is about the more than three out of four charter schools that simply aren’t cutting it.