Wednesday, October 4, 2017

First $1 million of controversial $71 million federal charter school grant doled out.

After two years of fits and starts, the Ohio Department of Education has finally given out some of the $71 million federal charter school grant meant to grow high-quality charters in this state.

Unfortunately, as I have reported at Know Your Charter, nearly 1/3 of the federal money spent previously in Ohio went to charters that closed shortly after receiving he federal grant money, or never opened at all.

When Ohio surprisingly received the nation's largest single grant in 2015, it was a stunner because it came on the heels of several reports and scandalous actions that further cemented Ohio's status as a national laughingstock for charter school oversight and performance. It also didn't help that the official at ODE who filled out the application -- David Hansen, the husband of Gov. John Kasich's chief of staff -- resigned shortly after the money was awarded because he cooked the books to make Ohio's situation look better than it actually was.

As a result of this scandal, the feds held up Ohio's money for months as they and ODE went back and forth about the kinds of additional oversight needed to make sure Ohio actually sent the money to charters that weren't about to go under or would never open.

The three recipients of $350,000 each are brand new charters this school year: the Southwest Ohio Preparatory School in Cincinnati, South Columbus Preparatory Academy in Columbus and United Preparatory Academy East, also in Columbus.

The two preparatory academies are sponsored by St. Aloysius Orphanage, which Cleveland wants to ban from sponsoring schools in their city, but is considered an "effective" charter school sponsor by the state of Ohio because it has so many dropout recovery schools that get much more lenient report card ratings.

The other school is sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, whose VP of Policy and Advocacy, Chad Aldis, sits on the ODE advisory panel that oversees the implementation of the federal charter school funding.

Here's hoping this money helps turn the tide and starts growing Ohio's quality school options. But given Ohio's long history on this issue, I'll take Reagan's approach to the old Russian proverb: 

Trust, but verify.

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