Home Education Op-Ed: Patton College dean says Ohio “is funneling money into a broken charter system”

Op-Ed: Patton College dean says Ohio “is funneling money into a broken charter system”

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In September, the U.S. Department of Education, as part of a national goal to create 400 new high-quality charter schools, awarded “Charter School Program” grants to eight states, including Ohio. In fact, Ohio received the largest amount given to any state: $71 million, a staggering number given our status as arguably the worst charter school state in America.

Well, now we know why we got it. The Ohio Department of Education has been accused of falsifying information in its grant application, portraying the state as a beacon of charter excellence, oversight and accountability.

We all know, of course, regardless of the action or inaction of the Ohio Department of Education, nothing could be further from the truth.

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost said in September that Ohio’s charter system is broken and in need of reform. The Center for Research and Education Outcomes (CREDO), considered by many to be the authoritative national voice on charter school performance, has roundly criticized Ohio’s performance in the past. Ohio’s charter reputation – or lack thereof – has been well documented.

The ODE, however, indicated otherwise in its application, saying that the state had, for example, zero “poor-performing” charters in 2012-13, despite the fact that roughly one-third of its charters didn’t meet a single standard on their state report cards that year and that 60 percent of Ohio charters received a “D” or “F” on the Performance Index, which measures student performance on state tests. The ODE also falsely assured the U.S. Department of Education that it would close “poor-performing” charter schools, even though the automatic-closure law has been suspended until at least the 2017-18 school year.

At best, the ODE’s claims are misleading; at worst, they’re downright deceitful.

And the ODE knows it. Days after filing the application, former ODE employee David Hansen admitted to providing false and misleading data and resigned. The application stated that Ohio had only six poor-performing charters in 2013-14 – an outrageous claim given that less than a quarter of Ohio charters received an overall grade of “A” or “B” as recently as 2011-12.

Nevertheless, the ODE and our federal government under Secretary Duncan’s leadership, wants to aggressively expand charter schools across the state. It intends to offer a total of $71 million by providing $700,000 grants to each applicant seeking to open new charter schools, including for-profit online charters, which rank among some of the worst charter schools in the state.

This is wrong. Once again, Ohio is funneling money into a broken charter system. Even worse, the state was highly misleading in order to do so. CREDO has found that our traditional public schools outperform our charters – in some cases by a wide margin. Our taxpayer money should go to traditional public schools, and the U.S. Department of Education’s grant money should have gone to a more deserving state.

Ohio was given the largest piece of the “Charter School Program” pie. Unfortunately, we didn’t deserve it. Not one bite.

Let your state representatives know we don’t need more subpar charters in our future. Our traditional public schools are producing far better results today.

Dr. Renée A. Middleton is the dean of The Gladys W. & David H. Patton College of Education at Ohio University.

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