Thursday, November 29, 2012

National Charter Group Praises HB 1

I read in the Cleveland Plain Dealer today that the National Association of Charter School Authorizers wants Ohio and the nation to follow the lead of former Gov. Ted Strickland through 2009's House Bill 1: Shut down bad operators.

NACSA said this was the first time it had called for such state laws, praising Ohio as an example of what happens when state legislators impose greater accountability. It said Ohio shut down 19 poor-performing charters after tougher laws in 2008 and last year.
I'm trying to figure out where exactly the tougher laws were passed in last year's HB 153, especially since the Ohio House let David Brennan literally write the Charter School law. Perhaps it's the fact that the current General Assembly didn't revert back to more lax closure standards?

No matter.

What the national organization is doing is once again demonstrating for all of us here in Ohio that the environment over Charter Schools is vastly different outside Ohio than here. Outside Ohio, Charter School advocates are calling to drum out poor performers so the good ones can thrive. In Ohio, choice for choice's sake, regardless of how good the choice is, is lauded. I have said on the House floor and in other venues that we should fight for better choices, not more bad choices.

Or, as NACSA put it:

...Bad charters give good charter schools a bad name. NACSA said that, nationally, 900 to 1,300 charter schools now rank in the lowest 15 percent of schools in their states, holding back high-end charters and impeding overall public-education reform.

I have long stated that Ohio's Charter School experience has been so corrupted by political ambition that it is nearly impossible to judge how Charters are working in Ohio. They simply weren't set up as a true reform measure; they were devised as a political wedge -- something unique to Ohio.

One of the measures in HB 1, which I helped shape in the Ohio General Assembly, was a provision that made it easier to close down poorly performing Charter Schools. I wanted to do more, frankly. Currently, every Ohio child loses 6.5% of his or her state revenue to the Charter School funding system.

I wanted to potentially see more money go to good Charter Schools (in Ohio, that's not a ton) at the expense of these poor performers (in Ohio, that is a ton). I always felt you could have far more effective Charter School system with far less money being drained from Ohio's traditional public schools if the state would take the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on bad Charter Schools, put a chunk of that into good Charter Schools, and put the rest back into the traditional public schools that are frankly cleaning most Ohio Charter Schools' clocks on performance.

If you took the 23 Charter Schools in this state that performed better than the average district Performance Index Score on the latest report card (again, there are more than 300 Charter Schools in Ohio), and added all the state money together that goes to them, it's about $50 million. Again, the state spent $771 million last year on Charter Schools. So you could probably reduce the program to $200 million, only fund really cracker jack programs that work collaboratively and cooperatively with local school districts, and provide instant property tax relief of more than 2 mills to the average school district's taxpayers.

And you could do it without raising taxes. You do it by raising standards.

However, Ohio's Charter School establishment was dead set against closing any Charters for any reason in 2009. And that was primarily because of the political power Charters have wielded for years. So we settled for making it a bit easier to close Charter Schools that were the worst of the worst. At the time, about half of all Charter Schools rated the equivalent of D or F on the state's report card, so you can imagine what the worst of the worst would be. Today the D or F rate is about 40%, thanks in no small measure to the tougher closure standards

In any case, I'm glad Ohio's being singled out for strength on this issue (for once). I hope the General Assembly takes note and builds upon Ohio's leadership role here. We'll see.