Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Data: $3 out of every $5 Ohio charters received last year came from equal or better performing districts

Since 2014, Know Your Charter -- a website developed between Innovation Ohio and the Ohio Education Association -- has provided a unique dataset that I developed for them. The set calculates how much money is transferred from a school district to a charter school that performs better, the same or worse on more report card measures. It is the only ongoing, statewide comparison of its kind in the country.

Every year, about $3 of every $5 sent to Ohio charters go to charters that do no better or worse than the district the child left.

This past 2016-2017 school year was no different, as I wrote in Know Your Charter's most recent report. Of $935 million transferred from school districts to charter schools last year, $553 million went to charters that did no better or worse on more state report card measures. That's just about 60 percent.

Even more remarkable is that $370 million went to charters that didn't receive a single penny from a district that performed worse on more state report card measures, accounting for about 1/2 of all Ohio charter schools. And a startling $167 million went to charters that took all their money from better performing schools, accounting for about 1/3 of all Ohio charter schools. These didn't even tie a single time.

Here's the thing, though. That $167 million easily could be $270 million if you include the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. However, a single $2,500 transfer of ECOT's $103 million came from a district that performed the same on the state's report card measures as ECOT. So I didn't include ECOT in the Know Your Charter calculation, even though 99.998 percent of that notorious school's money came from districts that outperformed it on more report card measures.

While the number of charters that take all their money from better performing districts is remarkable, equally remarkable is how few Ohio charter schools, conversely, take all their money from districts that perform worse.

Only 7 of 370 charter schools last year took all their money from worse performing districts. And 13 took all their money from districts that did the same or worse. Here's a list of the charters that took all their money from worse performing districts:

While there have been steps taken on the path toward respectability for Ohio's beleaguered charter school sector, the fact remains that far too often, significant sums of taxpayer dollars go from better performing districts to worse performing, privately run educational options.

I've said this many times, but it bears saying again: I'm not against school choice. However, I am against a school choice regime that funds options that do a worse job educating children while removing opportunities from children whose parents send their kids to local public school districts.

And that's another thing we've learned from this last school year: Ohio's charter schools, because they receive so much more per pupil state funding than local school districts, force those districts to fill in the lost state revenue with locally raised mostly property taxes -- a fact now acknowledged by legislators on both sides of the aisle. Last year that amount was $222.1 million.

Every year, I keep hoping state leaders wake up and realize that Ohio's school choice options too often provide worse options and have the compounding effect of making school districts have to rely even more on local property taxes to pay for these worse performing options. Last I checked, overreliance on property taxes -- before charters even existed -- was deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Let's try to create a system that rewards the charters that are serving kids. And let's do it at the expense of the charters that aren't.

I know. That makes too much sense.

But our kids deserve a better system than the one our state's adults have concocted.


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