Stephen Dyer is a Senior Fellow at Innovation Ohio and a former legislator. He has scrutinized state data exhaustively and reported that district schools outperform charter schools by every measure: test scores, graduation rates, achievement gaps. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute didn’t agree with his conclusions. Although it claims to be a think tank, it is in fact an advocacy group for school choice.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which is technically based in Dayton (where the late Mr. Fordham lived) is actually based in D.C., is an authorizer of charter schools in Ohio. Authorizers are paid a commission on every student who enrol in charter schools so it is a lucrative role. I was a board member at TBF and an original founder. I opposed the decision to become an authorizer because I thought that it conflicted with the role of a think tank, which should be free to critique or praise anyone without fear or favor. I was outvoted.

In this post, Stephen Dyer responds to TBF criticism.

He explains that every public school in Ohio receives less money so charters can be funded.

“According to the final state payment made to school districts from June, there were 1.7 million students in Ohio set to receive $7.95 billion in total state aid. That’s works out to $4,657 (I’m rounding here) for every student in local public school districts.

“Then come charter schools.

“According to the report, $898 million left school districts last year for charters (a district-by-district breakdown I received from the Ohio Department of Education puts that tally at $935 million, so there’s that). Leaving with that funding were 113,613 students.

“So, after losing the funding and students to charter schools, the remaining 1.59 million children in Ohio school districts were set to receive $7.05 billion in state revenue, or $4,425 each.

“That means that the charter deduction costs every kid in Ohio school districts, on average, $231.51.

“This is why I compare charter school performance with school district performance. Because charter schools affect every kid in a school district. Profoundly. How profoundly? Let’s look at Columbus.

“Prior to the charter school deduction, every kid in Columbus City Schools is set to receive $4,559 in state funding. However, once the $145.65 million and 18,541 students are transferred to charter schools, the remaining 53,532 students who attend Columbus City School buildings receive $3,418 per pupil. That is a difference of $1,141.62. So charter schools cost students who are in Columbus City Schools about 1/4 of their state revenue. That’s every student in Columbus, regardless of wealth, race, or disability, Jamie.

“Every.

“Single.

“Student.

“So if this profound a change in state funding is going to happen for the 75 percent of children who remain in Columbus City Schools, or the 93 percent of children who remain in Ohio’s local public school districts, we’d better be damn sure it’s worth it. Is it worth removing $1,141.62 from kids in the best performing school in Columbus so thousands of kids can go to ECOT, for example (ECOT is the largest recipient of charter school transfer funding from Columbus)?

“I would say that’s a big, “No.”

“Now my friends at Fordham often complain that charters don’t get local revenue. And while that’s true, I fail to see how that justifies removing millions of state dollars from kids in local school districts. If the legislature believes in school choice so strongly, then set aside $260 million or so to make up for the lack of local revenue.

“Stop taking it from the 1.59 million kids who aren’t in charters.“