Jan Resseger reports here on Stephen Dyer’s astute analysis of Ohio’s state budget. Dyer is a former legislator who is now an Education Policy Fellow at Innovation Ohio.

This is Dyer’s report. Read it and weep. Ohio’s rightwing Republicans care more about campaign contributors than they care about the state’s students or the quality of education.

In looking at the plums for charters and vouchers, please bear in mind that most charter schools in Ohio are low-performing and score far below public schools, even in urban districts. And remember too that a study of Ohio’s voucher program sponsored by the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute concluded that students who used vouchers actually lost ground academically. So, when you see legislators increasing funding for vouchers and reducing oversight of charters, be aware that Ohio is underwriting and rewarding failure.

Resseger writes:

In the 2020-2021 biennial Ohio budget signed into law in July, lawmakers quietly embedded the radical expansion of school privatization. Rewards for charter schools and tuition voucher expansion are written into the budget in a lots of little ways, however, which means that, during the budget debate, few noticed the overall significance of exploding state support for school privatization. A new report released last week by Innovation Ohio, however, connects the dots among several measures which together will undermine oversight of charter schools and at the same time radically expand tuition vouchers. The report includes an examination of the fiscal implications for local public school districts.

The former chair of the Ohio House Education Subcommittee of Finance and now Innovation Ohio’s education policy fellow, Steve Dyer authored the report, which ought to be essential reading for legislators and a broad range of citizens—from experts to people who have not previously tracked the issue. Dyer writes a basic primer and at the same time an analysis sophisticated enough to teach experts something new.

Dyer begins: “When Governor Mike DeWine signed HB166 into law, he approved a budget that lawmakers had packed full of little-noticed gifts to those who seek to erode support for traditional public schools through a proliferation of charter and private school options funded at taxpayer expense.”  Dyer explains that the new Ohio budget:

  • weakens Ohio’s 2015 charter school oversight law that mandated automatic closure for academic failure after two years;
  • weakens standards for Ohio’s already deplorable sector of “dropout recovery” charter schools;
  • weakens Ohio’s oversight of its many charter school authorizers; and
  • increases the transfer of state and even local taxpayer dollars to private—mostly religious—schools.

Read this summary of the state’s preferential treatment of failing charters and see if you can overcome an impulse to gag:

Although in 2015, the state cracked down on academically failing charter schools by mandating their closure after two years of failing test scores, the new budget awards these schools an extra, third year to stay in business. The new budget gives 52 schools which had been preparing to close another year of life. Dyer adds: “Interestingly, of the 52 charters that were scheduled to be closed under the old standard, 34 are run by for-profit charter school operators, including almost 20 percent of the former White Hat schools now being operated by Ron Packard—the founder of K-12 Inc.—the nation’s largest (and most notorious) online charter school operator. Another big operator set to take a hit was J.C. Huizenga’s 10 Ohio-based National Heritage Academies. Six of those were on the chopping block before the legislature offered a legislative reprieve. Huizenga is an acolyte of Betsy DeVos—the controversial U.S. Secretary of Education—and his political connections have kept his schools afloat for years, despite complaints….”

The new state budget also weakens standards at a set of charter schools described by their promoters as providing opportunity for students who have dropped out of school. While the education of school dropouts is a worthy purpose, in Ohio, the state has been providing millions of dollars of support for schools that clearly fail to accomplish that stated goal: “Some graduate less than two percent of their students in four years and less than 10 percent in eight years. The state’s already lax standards only require that dropout recovery schools graduate eight percent of their students in four years.”  Before they can graduate, students in these schools must pass a state-approved test, but the new budget permits these schools, “to adopt another, easier test, and reduces the passing score.” It is predicted that the change in standards will save some of these schools from mandatory closure.

Ohio’s legislature is either bought and paid for by privatization advocates (very likely) or it is dominated by ideologues who want to reward failure regardless of how many children are miseducated.