Tuesday, September 16, 2014

StudentsFirst: Ohio's Charters Mostly "Stink", Should be Closed

StudentsFirst -- Michelle Rhee's education reform group -- had a rocky beginning here in Ohio. It got involved in lots of political races early and created enemies.

But over the last couple years, things have changed. Gone are the days of Rhee coming to town and hobnobbing with politicos. In fact, Rhee is gone as SF president, though she remains on its board.

StudentsFirst Ohio's Executive Director Greg Harris has made some pretty important statements. Last year, he said in the Akron Beacon Journal that "a lot of times it has to do not with how well your school is performing, but how well your lobbyist is paid."

To hear a pro-charter organization say we need to get politics out of the argument and implore the legislature to stop pouring more money into bad charters was unheard of before last year.

Harris was at it again this morning in the Columbus Dispatch. Here's what he said:

But the group will also warn parents against the slick advertising campaigns of bad charter operators. 
“We think a lot of them (charters) need to be closed, because they’re not doing a good job,” Harris said. “We think charters have a role in the education base, but we also think most of the charters in Ohio stink.” 
Now, StudentsFirst has been on the quality bandwagon for a while. But to hear that Ohio's charters have serious quality issues is unheard of from Ohio's charter school advocacy community, until now.

I know Harris a bit, having worked with him while he was at Knowledge Works and since. He's a good, sincere person who really does not like bad charters because he really believes in good ones. And while we differ on some major topics, on this we agree: Ohio's Charters mostly stink, and the bad ones need to be shut down.

I welcome Greg's courage to take on the Charter School Establishment in Ohio. His is a tougher road than mine. He's got a steep climb, but more of Ohio's policymakers need to listen to his voice, rather than bad charter operators' campaign cash.

And let's hope his and his group's leadership will inspire the more reasonable, and until now mostly silent, voices in the charter school movement who feel this way to join the chorus.