Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ohio Pro-Charter Group: Democrats, not Bipartisan Bill, are ECOT's Problem

For years, I have said the problem with Ohio's charter schools has been the politics that have driven so much of the debate. That all started to change with the overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of House Bill 2 last year, which put the idea of quality school choice at the center of the charter school movement here for the first time.

But then, the poster child for Ohio's political, ridiculed past, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow -- whose founder, William Lager, has given more than $1.2 million to mostly Republican politicians -- started coming under the microscope from House Bill 2's much tougher regulations.

And that has led to the Last Stand for the Poor Performing Charter School Movement in Ohio, with ECOT suing to keep the Ohio Department of Education from determininig whether paying the school more than $108 million was justified based on how many kids actually learned there. Instead, ECOT wants to be paid based simply on whether they offered curricula to kids. The school is now daring ODE to subpoena the records that could determine that.

And now, the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education -- the state's ironically named and most egregious defender of poor-performing charter schools  (the last dodo, if you will) -- slipped a letter under the doors of delegates to the Republican National Convention that is so brazenly political I wonder if they put their tax-exempt status in jeopardy.

In the letter, OCQE's President (and only staffer other than his wife, as far as I can tell) Ron Adler calls the Republican sweep in 2010 "our" victory. He blames sneaky Democratic bureaucrats at ODE for ECOT's problems, forgetting that the problem is the bill passed by nearly every Republican is the root of ECOT's newfound accountability issues.

But perhaps the most outrageous thing about it all is it rips open the wound that had begun to heal around the idea that charter schools should offer quality school options for kids and parents, not worse ones, of which ECOT is clearly the most prominent example.

Ohio's has worked hard to rid itself of the national ridicule and scorn that pro-charter school advocates have heaped upon it now for years. I would hope that folks on all sides of the aisle would see this letter for what it is -- the T-Rex's final roar before the asteroid finally makes the Earth habitable for sentient beings.

We've come too far to return to past battles that got us nothing except a few people rich and a lot of kids poorly educated. I call on policy makers on all sides of the political aisle to swiftly condemn this sad, last gasp of a movement that made Ohio a national mockery.

And we must do that now.


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