Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ohio Charters Just Don't Work, Part I

Over the last month or so, I have been busily compiling data and reports for Know Your Charter -- reports I frankly hoped would give, well, hope to the idea that Ohio charter schools shouldn't be a national joke. I'm embarrassed that my state's education system -- any part of it -- is subjected to ridicule and scorn. I know Ohio's a great place to live and raise a family. But all the data -- and I mean all the data -- demonstrate emphatically that Ohio's charter school system overall is the exact "debacle" national observers have claimed. But it's not just a debacle for kids in charters. It's also really bad for kids who aren't in charters -- a story not often told, let alone known.

Over the next few days, I will sift through the data for you to emphatically demonstrate the problem Ohio has, its scope and, ultimately, solutions that can make Ohio a leader on high-quality charter schools, not the state where quality goes to die.

Today represents Part I of this effort.

For the last three years at Innovation Ohio, we have written reports based on state data that looked at how much money and how many students went from which districts to which charters. The results the previous two years showed that far more kids go to poorer performing charters than better performing charters. Well, this year (which we posted at Know Your Charter) was no different, except for the scale. Now the amount of money going to worse-performing charters is more than $430 million, and if you include charters that perform the same, it's now more than $500 million that goes from the same or higher-performing districts to the same or worse-performing charters.

Here is what the data show:
  1. Out of the $774 million that were transferred from districts to charters with state report card grades , 56% – or more than $430 million – went to charter schools that performed worse overall than the district that transferred the money. If you include districts that performed the same, nearly 2 out of every 3 dollars went to charter schools from a district that performed the same or better, at a cost of $504 million.
  2. Local taxpayers had to subsidize $180.3 million to cover the money transferred to the same or worse performing charter schools.
  3. Districts were more likely to lose money to charters that underperformed on all 8 report card categories and not a single transfer occurred where the charter outperformed the district on all 8 report card grades.
  4. When districts and charters were both graded in every category, 97% of the time districts outperformed the charters. Just 1.8% of the time did a charter outperform districts in the majority of the categories.
  5. There were 461 school districts – accounting for more than ¾ of all of Ohio school districts – where all the kids attending charter schools were transferred to equal or poorer performing charter schools. That adds up to 19,042 kids and $136.6 million. Meanwhile, every district lost at least some funding to poorer performers, with only 17 districts losing less than half their children to poorer performing charters.
  6. In 84 of 88 counties, more than half of children attended poorer performing charters, and in 43 of Ohio’s 88 counties, all the children going to charters attend charters that perform the same or worse than local school districts.
Here it is in a pie chart. You can see just how much money goes to worse-performing charters. It's not good, especially because charters have been sold as higher quality options for parents and kids. In Ohio, they generally are not.

What's even more amazing is when you see how many times the transfers went to worse-performing charters.

This means that nearly 5000 times, the transfers (which means all kids going from a district to a charter, whether that's 1 or 1000) went to worse-performing charters. And, more importantly, look at how many kids go to worse performers:

This is not good. But don't worry, it's worse than it looks. That's because the funding that follows these children to worse-performing charters means that districts have less state funding to educate the children who remain in the school district. That means one of two things: Districts become more reliant on local property taxes, which is unconstitutional, or, as happens in 86 Ohio school districts, every kid loses funding, even including local taxes. Here are the top 25 districts that lose overall per pupil funding because charters take so much more than the state would have given the districts for the same kid that not even the district's local revenue can make up the difference:

And here are the top 25 districts whose state share drops the most because of the charter deduction. In other words, these are the districts who could make the strongest argument that charters cause a greater "overreliance on property tax" -- a no-no, according to the Ohio Supreme Court.

As you can see, charter funding has a profound impact on funding for kids in school districts. The great, untold story of the Ohio charter school experience has been its effect upon the 90% of kids who are not in charter schools. This funding system is a major problem. And despite the fact that the charter school reform measures currently pending in the Ohio General Assembly are strong and (especially Senate Bill 148) historic, the fact that they do not deal with funding reform leaves a gaping hole in Ohio's charter structure -- a hole that must be filled, not just hidden with good camouflage.

Tomorrow: Ohio Charters Just Don't Work, Part II: Charter school excuses debunked