A couple of weeks ago, I invited Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio to write a post explaining the Cleveland Plan.
I thought the post was fair, balanced, and informative.
Terry Ryan of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, based jointly in Dayton and Washington, D.C., responded to Dyer and criticized me for printing the post.
When I visited Cleveland earlier this year to address the Cleveland City Club, what stuck me was that it is a sad, sad city. Except for sports stadiums, it feels abandoned. The downtown is small and has many empty commercial buildings. Neighborhoods have boarded up buildings and empty lots where buildings used to be. I was struck by how impoverished the city is, how disheartened the teachers are, and how inadequate is the response of state and city leaders to the collapse of this once-proud city.
According to NAEP, the district consists of 100% poor children.
About the time I was in Cleveland, the Cleveland Plan was announced, and all I heard about was merit pay and charters. I haven’t seen any evidence that this is a winning strategy for a deeply impoverished city. Charters in Ohio don’t get better results than regular public schools; many are in academic emergency or academic watch. I wanted to understand more, which is why I asked Dyer to explain the Cleveland Plan. The plan has been warmly embraced by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson (D) and Governor John Kasich (R).
Just a bit of background. I was a founding director of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. I left the board in 2009. One of the reasons that I became disillusioned with charter schools was that I saw several of the charters in Ohio sponsored by TBF flounder and fail. My experience at TBF pushed me away from the nostrums that are now so popular on the right and with some Democrats, such as Arne Duncan. I came to see charters as part of a wider effort to privatize public education.
Two things I want to add:
First, I know Terry Ryan and always found him to be fair-minded, so I was disappointed that he took issue with my invitation to Stephen Dyer to write on an issue about which he is deeply knowledgeable. I previously asked Terry’s colleague Mike Petrilli to write a blog to explain why some conservatives support the Common Core standards (he was too busy). I don’t clear my decisions with anyone. I was also surprised that Terry thinks I am less committed to local democracy when I question charters, which transfer public funds to private corporations and replace public control of public education. It is because I believe in democracy that I am disturbed by the rapid growth of charters, which erode the democratically-controlled public sector. The growth of charters is the leading edge of a free market in education, and Terry knows it.
Second, unlike Dyer, I am unalterably opposed to for-profit schools. I think they are an abomination, and moreso in Ohio than in most places, where the for-profit sector is unusually rapacious and greedy and uses its profits to expand and generate more profits, not good schools.