September 15, 2022

Stephen Dyer: Ohio’s $71 million Federal Charter School Grant Disaster

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The Obama administration handed over $71 million to Ohio, despite warnings from many folks that Ohio’s charter landscape was a mess. Now, seven years later, Stephen Dyer reports on what happened to that money.

Only $8 million was spent. 

Was Ohio cautious? Stingy? Did they just forget to award the grants?

No, the truth is far worse. As Dyer reports:

Unsurprisingly, Ohio’s had a really tough time handing out money to this ill-fated program. Why? Because the money has to go to “high-performing” charter schools — of which Ohio has precious few.

Which helps explain that while 20 schools have received money from the program since 2017, only 5.

That’s right.

Only 5 of the approximately 330 Charter Schools that were in operation during any one of those grant years, received federal money to expand because of their quality. Only 26 would even qualify for the money today. Out of 331 Ohio Charter Schools.

One would think after 25 years, you’d get more than 7.9% of these schools annually to be “High Quality”.

And what is “High Quality” anyway? According to the state’s guidelines, the schools have to get C or better state report card ratings on several measures. That’s right. High-Quality Charter Schools in Ohio just need to get Cs to qualify for hundreds of thousands of federal dollars because they’re “High Quality”.

Is that an unreasonably high standard? Has the bar been set just far too high? We know that the letter grading system for schools is largely baloney–has it just thwarted all schools in Ohio? How oudl the public schools stack up if they had to face that same metric? Dyer has an answer for that.

How many public school buildings would qualify as High Quality?

It’s about 3 out of every 5 Ohio public school buildings. Ohio’s major urban districts? Try more than 1 in 5 of those buildings. In Akron, it’s nearly 1 in 3 buildings.

Again, by comparison, only 1 in 13 Ohio Charter Schools qualify.

Ohio’s had 638 Charter Schools that have operated at any time in this state. And only 5 of those got any of the $71 million in federal money designated in 2015 to expand the state’s “high-quality” Charter Schools.

Ohio has long been one of the Wild West states for charter operators. The results may have made operators richer, but they haven’t served the students of Ohio. Meanwhile, the federal charter school grant program continues to waste taxpayer dollars.

Read Dyers full post here. 


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