When charter schools burst onto Ohio’s education scene fifteen years ago, proponents claimed they could educate at-risk children better and more cheaply than public schools. The reality is quite different.
Charter schools cost the state more than twice as much per student as traditional schools do, and with a handful of exceptions, their academic performance is worse.
Ohio’s system of deducting charter-school funding from the amount of state aid to school districts gives charters more money than they spend.
Meanwhile, students in traditional schools — who account for 90% of Ohio’s school population — get, on average, 6.5% less funding than the state says they should receive.
Most of the money transferred to charters goes to schools whose students’ performance scores are worse than in the school districts from which those students came.
Since Gov. John Kasich and the General Assembly are developing a new school funding system as part of the 2014-15 state budget, there couldn’t be a better time for change. We need at least three fixes:
● Charter-school funding should not be based on the amount needed to educate a child in a traditional school. It should be based on what charters spend. Charter schools pay teachers far less than traditional schools. They have no student transportation expenses; school districts are required to pay busing costs for all children in a district, regardless of what school they attend. Charters also have lower costs, since they are exempt from 270 state rules that apply to traditional schools.
● The governor and lawmakers must make sure that charter school funding does not come at the expense of students in public schools. Surely the 90% of Ohio children who stay in traditional schools should not be penalized to over-fund charter schools.
● It is long past time for Ohio policy makers to hold charter schools to the same level of academic accountability they demand of traditional schools. A few charter schools do well, but they are a minority. Only about two dozen of the nearly 300 charters rated by the Ohio Department of Education score above the state average on performance measures. Moreover, failing charter schools are difficult to close. The process takes five to six years, and schools that the state manages to shutter reopen a short time later under different names.
Even charters that aren’t failing do far worse than traditional schools, but keep raking in taxpayer money. In the 2011-12 school year, more than 90% of state aid to charters went to schools that rated, on average, eighteen points lower on the state’s performance index score than the traditional schools.
Charter school boosters never tire of extolling “school choice” for parents and students. But how many parents know that most students transfer to charters that do worse than the traditional schools they left?
Nothing is more important for Ohio’s future than education. Neither our children nor our state can prosper tomorrow unless we build a world-class educational system today.
We cannot afford to undercut our traditional schools. And short-changing the children who attend them is morally indefensible.
- 87 Percent of Ohio’s Charter Schools Fail To Meet Minimum Standards
- Top Five Myths About Charter Schools