In Ohio, local school districts every year face the
realization that they will be over $300 million dollars
short each year because their districts are losing funding
to charter schools that have no elected school board or real
accountability and who underperform in comparison with their
traditional public school neighbors.
In the early 2000s, the State of Ohio and local school
districts spent billions on rebuilding traditional public
schools into 21st Century buildings. As a
graduate of Scott High School in 2003, I remember the public
hearings in which residents shared their hopes and dreams
for education in this city.
Unbeknownst to many, a wave of school reform was taking
place across the country where publicly-funded charter
schools created by non-profits as well as for-profits sprang
up to provide ďchoiceĒ for parents who were tired of
underperforming public schools and limited curricular
In Ohio, we saw school enrollment decline from local school
districts to charter schools with the promise that children
would receive better educational opportunities.
In reality, we have a system of schools without elected
school boards who can essentially open anywhere in the state
as well as close in an instant without being held
accountable and, in the case of the Electronic Classroom of
Tomorrow (ECOT), commit fraud and cheat the state out of
over $60 million by falsely increasing enrollment accounts.
No doubt there are successful charter schools and
authorizers (entities that sponsor and oversee charters) in
Ohio. The Toledo School for the Arts is an amazing charter
with great results and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in
Columbus has been an authorizer that has received great
Even with those examples, in 2016 only five out of over 66
authorizers have been rated as Effective, with most
receiving Poor ratings, and only 10 authorizers meet the
standards for Quality Practices.
In 2010, Ohio was ranked sixth in education according to
Education Week. In that time, we have seen the de-regulation
of authorizers and the explosion of charters, specifically
for-profit charters being placed in Ohio serving our most
vulnerable children, typically black and brown youth.
Today, Ohio is ranked 23rd and continues to fall.
Who should hold these schools and authorizers accountable?
Unlike school boards in Ohio, leaders of charter schools and
their authorizers are unelected by the community. In fact,
some are elected by a board of directors who have financial
stake in the increased enrollment of the charter they
These issues are just part of many challenges that charter
schools present such as lack of certified teachers,
suspension and discipline disparities of students of color
and low achievement scores.
Imagine a school of black and brown students where the board
doesnít reflect the diversity of the school, and isnít
responsive to parents and community members because they
This is the charter school challenge in Ohio. This
disenfranchises communities and the students they serve.
Ohio charter schools are here to stay, but our elected
leaders at the state level can change whether we are holding
them accountable and whether our local school districts
continue to lose funding.
The time to change is now, because children canít wait for
it to happen in the future. Will our leaders act on this? We
shall see. They canít afford not to.