To his credit, Gov. John Kasich requested in his rather modest education bill introduced this spring to subject these Charter Schools to closure standards.
Gov. John Kasich proposed removing the exemption and creating performance standards for dropout-recovery schools in sweeping education legislation, but Republican leaders in the House stripped the provision from the bill so the schools would remain free of the automatic-closing law.Why would the House do this? Because they're the same chamber that let David Brennan's right hand man (who used to be Gov. George Voinovich's education czar) literally write its version of Charter School Law. And why would that matter? Because Brennan's White Hat Management makes about $30 million a year running some of the lowest performing schools in the state: Life Skills Centers, which are Dropout Recovery Schools.
The worst performing school in the state on the Performance Index Score is the Life Skills Center in Dayton. Their diplomas haven't been accepted by the military. Life Skills' graduation rate is 10.8% -- far worse than the average Charter Dropout Recovery School of about 40%.
To understand how poorly Life Skills is on attendance rate, look at this. According to the latest State Report Card, 24 (.67%) out of Ohio's 3,625 school buildings have attendance rates lower than 66.7% -- 17 of those are Life Skills Centers. That's right. All Life Skills Centers rate in the bottom 24 of the state's 3,625 school buildings on attendance.
However, the same Stan Heffner who took an apparently strong stand in the Dispatch story today:
Ohio Schools Superintendent Stan W. Heffner agreed. “If a dropout-recovery school continually fails to help raise achievement and graduate students, the provisions of Senate Bill 316 would require them to close,” Heffner said.runs the Ohio Department of Education, which approved a new Life Skills Center in Warrensville Heights in February. ODE will sponsor the school, even though it will receive money for all the kids who enroll, but will only be judged on the kids who attend 60% of the time. Now that is a standard, isn't it?
The Dispatch story didn't mention this fact in its story.
In the Dispatch story, Charter School Advocates insist that Dropout Recovery programs be judged differently than other schools.
“They should be judged by separate standards than other schools, given their unique student population,” said Stephanie Klupinski, vice president of legal and legislative affairs for the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.Yet there have been Dropout Recovery School standards sitting around for the Legislature to simply adopt since 2005. This doesn't require any wheel reinvention, just a priority reinvention. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Denver recently closed its Life Skills Center for poor performance, which Ohio could not do.
If Kasich is able to close down Dropout Recovery Schools, it would be a major defeat for David Brennan, who happens to be the largest single individual donor to Ohio Republicans. In this way, Kasich could be to White Hat what Reagan was to the labor movement when he busted the Air Traffic Controllers -- the impetus for much decreased power from a formerly powerful interest group. What makes Kasich more impressive is this would be decreasing the sway of his party's greatest funder, not its greatest opposition, like labor was to Reagan.
The reason this is a big deal for Brennan is Dropout Recovery Schools are where he makes his real money. According to the latest Annual Report on Charter Schools, Life Skills Centers are paid $28.2 million for the 3,629 children enrolled there. That's $7,765 per pupil. Again, after Charters get their cut, Ohio spends $3,390 per pupil in traditional public schools.
However, since Life Skills only has a 53.5% attendance rate, their per pupil payment for kids that actually attend Life Skills is $14,515. That's right. The state pays Life Skills almost 5 times as much as traditional public schools for the kids it actually "educates".
I don't know if Kasich will get these tighter standards. My guess is the legislature will punt the standard development to someone else for the next year, with the standards never being adopted, which is what happened in 2005.
I don't know if Kasich really thinks this is going to happen, or whether it's a ploy to make himself seem more moderate on Charters than the legislature as his re-election looms.
At least Ohio is having a meaningful discussion about how abysmal Dropout Recovery Charter Schools are performing in this state and (for whatever reason) the Governor is supplying pressure to change that.
For once, there is hope that these most at-risk youth in our state will finally receive the services they deserve.