‘It Gave Us a Choice When We Didn’t Have One’: Private School Choice Participants Flood Capitol to Tell Their Stories

This Week in ESSA: Ohio, Montana, Oklahoma, New York Advance Plans as Group Promotes Evidence-Based Rules

Weingarten Speech Tying School Choice to Racism Sets Off Firestorm

House Committee Rejects Democrats’ Bid to Restore Education Funding, Protect Teacher Training

How’s This for a Yarn? School Bus Driver Crochets a Personalized Toy for Every Student on Her Route

A Phoenix Breakthrough: How 3 Massachusetts High Schools Are Helping Dropouts Become College-Bound Grads

Teacher Groups Frustrated With California ESSA Plan’s ‘Loose’ Definition of Ineffective Teachers

The 74 Interview: You Don’t Think Your Child Is Average & Harvard’s Todd Rose Doesn’t Either

Interactive: How Far Every State Has Gone to Update Education Policies Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

House Republicans Warn Education Dept. on ESSA Overreach as Democrats Lament Lack of Accountability Rules

More Attention to ELLs, Student Suspension, Fewer Test Days: NY Tweaks Its ESSA Plan

WATCH: These 100 HS Grads Made a Splash With Pomp, Circumstance — and a Jump in the Lake

12 Rhode Island Schools Vie for Chance to Become Their State’s 3 Personalized Learning Labs

Teacher Raises, Bathrooms, Vouchers: Texas Lawmakers Take Up Big School Fights in Special Legislative Session

Investigation: Forced Into Unneeded Remedial Classes, Some Community College Students Fail to Finish Degrees

A Summer Education Meltdown: Why Everyone in DC Is Mad About ESSA, Congress, Charters, Choice — or All of the Above

This Week’s ESSA News: Science Test Debate, a Career Readiness Blind Spot, and Massachusetts Has Work to Do

House Subcommittee Advances Education Funding Bill as Democrats Protest ‘Anti-Teacher’ Cuts

DeVos Hears of Sex Attacks at Colleges & K-12 Schools as Feds Weigh Changes to Title IX Evidence Rules

The $1,488 Back-to-School Bill: Backpack Index Tracks Rising Costs of Supplies, Fees for Band, Sports, Trips

Ohio Legislators Push Through Charter Reform Law, But Fixes Hinge on Troubled Ed Department

October 8, 2015

Talking Points

Ohio legislators finally get tough with charters — after years of scandal and poor performance.

Ohio’s struggling charter schools may finally get the reform they need.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Ohio’s widely ridiculed charter sector may finally get much needed-reform — at least that’s the hope of proponents who were backing a bill that passed that state house and senate Wednesday afternoon.
Ohio’s charter schools have come under increasing scrutiny — including two recent pieces in the Seventy Four that investigated rampant industry corruption and explored the possibility that Ohio mislead federal officials in requesting grant money for charter expansion from the U.S. Department of Education — for its poor academic results and numerous financial scandals. Previous attempts to improve charter accountability and transparency appear to have been largely stymied by politically powerful for-profit charter operators.
This time, however, a broad, bipartisan coalition supported changes to the state charter law, with the house passing the bill 91–6 and the senate doing so unanimously. Governor John Kasich praised the law through a spokesperson and is expected to sign it into law. The legislation was also supported by several pro-charter groups including the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and StudentsFirst Ohio, as well as the Ohio Education Association.
According to a fact sheet distributed by the Fordham Institute the bill institutes a number of new practices intended to improve oversight and transparency, as well as reduce conflicts of interest. Many of the changes were recommended in a report commissioned by Fordham. They include improving oversight and rating the organizations that sponsor charter schools; cutting down on the practice known as “sponsor hopping,” in which an unsuccessful charter can avoid closure by changing authorizers; requiring disclosure of conflicts of interests between charter schools and members of their governing boards; prohibiting charter operators from taking ownership of school property; and requiring transparent accounting from non- and for-profit charter operators.
Chad L. Aldis, Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Fordham Institute praised Ohio’s lawmakers: “By holding accountable the entities that regulate, oversee, and manage charter schools, we can create an environment where high performing charter schools grow and prosper and low performers are shuttered.”
Still, some wonder whether the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) will implement the changes with fidelity.
The department found itself in hot water recently when it was uncovered that the top charter official had illegally scrubbed the grades of underperforming e-schools. As Stephen Dyer — a former state legislator who has written extensively about Ohio’s charter schools, including for The Seventy Four — previously said in an interview, “If the Ohio Department of Education doesn't take a tough stance for quality, then I'm afraid many of the reforms could go for naught.”
Photo by Getty Images