Archives for category: Ohio

Three years ago, the pro-charter, pro-voucher Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a study of Ohio’s voucher program. The study, conducted by David Figlio and Krzysztof Karbownik of Northwestern University is called “Evaluation of Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program: Selection, Competition, and Performance Effects.”

The study concluded that the voucher program was failing to improve student achievement.

It said in its conclusions:

There appears to be positive selection, as measured by prior academic performance and family advantage, among voucher-eligible students into private schools as part of the EdChoice program. Although a substantial majority of the students participating in the program, as well as their peers remaining in public schools, tend to be from low-income backgrounds, those students leaving for private schools under the program tend to be more advantaged and higher performing than their peers who were eligible to participate in the program but who remained in public schools…the evidence regarding the effects of EdChoice program suggests that while higher-performing students tend to leave public schools to attend private schools under the EdChoice program, the students who remain in the public schools—at least, those public schools that were comparatively high achieving—generally perform better on statewide tests as a consequence of EdChoice vouchers being available to students in a school. On the other hand, those students who leave these comparatively high-achieving public schools to go to private schools appear to perform worse than they would have had they remained in the public schools (which we estimate to have improved as a consequence of the introduction of EdChoice). Together, it appears that EdChoice has benefitted the majority of students, but the students who actually left the public schools—at least those on the margin of eligibility—perform worse on statewide tests. Although test performance is only one measure of educational success, these findings suggest that a detailed exploration of the possible causes of the negative test-score results (for instance, which private schools participate in the program, policies on school-grade retention, test-curriculum alignment, and the like) may be warranted.

Thus, the students eligible to leave with a voucher do better if they stay in public school; the students who use the voucher, who come from more advantaged backgrounds, do worse in school.

This is the only statewide evaluation of the Ohio EdChoice Program, and not what one would call a ringing endorsement since those who use the voucher do worse in school than those who stay in public school and don’t use the voucher.

Such research did not impress the Ohio legislature. Under the  prodding of State Senator Matt Huffman (R.-Lima), the state has expanded the voucher program, so that students in two-thirds of the districts across the state are now eligible to get state funding to attend a religious school.

The Cleveland Plain-Dealer wrote that the voucher expansion will hit the budgets of school districts hard, districts that in the past were not part of the voucher program.

A year ago, no students in the Parma school district used Ohio’s main tuition voucher program to attend private schools.

This year, thanks to changes in state law, 359 students are using vouchers.

For families paying tuition to send their kids to Parma-area private Catholic schools like Padua or Holy Name, a $6,000 tax-funded voucher toward tuition is a huge help.

For the district, it’s a $2.1 million hit to the budget that impacts teachers, books and supplies for its schools.

Parma isn’t alone in facing new or increased costs to help students attend private schools. Changes to state law, have more than tripled the number of districts declared part of the voucher program, from 40 in 2018-19 to 139 this school year.

Next year, the program meant to help students escape being stuck in failing schools will grow further, to more than 400 districts, which represents more than two-thirds of the districts in the state.

Even Solon, always at the top of state test score rankings, has a school considered failing and whose students are now eligible for vouchers. Next year, add a school in each of the high-scoring Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Mayfield districts.

The change has school officials protesting and gathering to find ways to seek relief…

The use of vouchers within school districts is also increasing. The Cleveland Heights-University Heights schools saw 500 more students use vouchers this year than last year, mostly to attend Jewish schools. The district’s voucher bill increased by $3 million.

That change, said district Treasurer Scott Gainer, has the school board seeking a higher tax increase than planned this spring.

Shaker Heights Superintendent David Glasner, whose district is seeing a small bill this year, but faces a larger one next year, complained to the state school board last week about the hit that school district budgets are taking.

“There are school districts that are now expecting to lose millions of dollars in the course of one year as a result of the EdChoice [voucher] expansion,” Glasner said. “These are losses for which districts were unable to forecast or prepare.”

State Sen. Matt Huffman, one of the strongest supporters of vouchers in Ohio, said some of the rules are subtle and have changed a few times. But districts should have known, he said, and should be blaming themselves for not improving their schools…

Ohio has four “scholarship” or voucher programs that provide tax dollars to pay tuition at private schools, almost all of which are Christian schools. There is one program just for Cleveland, which was started in 1996, so Cleveland is not affected by the current changes.

The biggest is called EdChoice. Created in 2005 for students attending “underperforming” schools or who would be assigned to them, EdChoice has a student’s home district pay $4,650 toward tuition for kindergarten through eighth grade and $6,000 for private high schools.

Stephen Dyer, a former legislator in Ohio who writes a blog about education, called “BS” on Huffman’s claim that school districts should have known and should have been prepared.

Dyer says that the state rigged the grades and school report cards to produce failure and make more schools voucher-eligible.

This is where I call BS.

How can I do that? Simple: Over the last decade, the state report card grades upon which these new voucher building designations are being based have been deliberately and artificially deflated for the state’s school districts. And I’m increasingly convinced it was for this sole purpose: to ensure more districts and buildings are deemed “failing” by the state so more public money can be poured into private, mostly religious schools.

Don’t believe me?

Look at school districts’ overall grade performance since the 2012-2013 school year — the first for the A-F state report card system.

Notice anything? Like a massive jump in D and F grades between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015?

Let me ask you a question: Does anyone — and I mean ANYONE — actually believe that between the 2013-2014 school year and the 2014-2015 school year school districts became more than twice as likely to “fail” kids?

Of course not.

This is a classic case of grade manipulation by state lawmakers. You’ll also notice a steady decline in the rate of Fs since the high point of 2015-2016. Why were these grades so much worse? Because the state kept changing standardized tests. So teachers and students had no idea what the testing expectations were. Since they’ve remained the same, you can see a steady and precipitous decline in the rate of F grades, though the percentages of D and F grades remain far higher than the 2012-2013 school year.

To add insult to injury, a study examing the test performance of students who take vouchers found they did worse on state tests after taking the voiucher than before … according to the pro-voucher Fordham Institute. But that doesn’t matter to Huffman, whose hero is apparently the Titanic captain who kept plowing ahead, damn the iceberg.

Anyway, here’s where Huffman struck gold for those who are taking a public subsidy to send their kids to private, mostly religious schools — only 2 out of the three years’ grades count to have your building designated “failing” from 2013-2014, 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. And once the building is eligible for vouchers, every student who gets a voucher gets to keep it forever, even if the public building becomes the highest-performing in the state…

But it’s all been a plan from the beginning:

1) Deliberately deflate district report card grades

2) Get as many buildings as possible eligible for vouchers

3) Market them like crazy to families in these districts so the rest of us taxpayers can subsidize their choices with our local tax dollars and/or fewer opportunities for our kids who remain in local school districts.

That’s not a district performance problem.

It’s Huffman’s plan.


Last Saturday I was on Meryl Johnson’s radio show, based in Cleveland, where she was a teacher in the public schools for many years. Meryl is an elected member of the Ohio State Board of Education, and she is very concerned about the explosion of vouchers. She alerted me to this disaster. I pointed out that there is one possible silver lining. Until now, the suburban districts in Ohio could ignore vouchers and assume they affected only Ohio’s urban districts. Now the cost of vouchers will hit their school budgets and their taxes will  have to go up so that a few students can go to religious schools, where they are likely to get a worse education than the one offered in their local  public schools. Their own schools will now feel the pinch caused by vouchers. Maybe this is the wake-up call that is needed to create a statewide coalition to stop defunding the public schools that enroll the vast majority of students in the Buckeye State.

Meryl sent me a screen shot of the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Will this wake up the citizens of Ohio? Will they realize that they must raise their taxes to pay for vouchers for the small number who leave their public schools? Do they know that the students who leave for religious schools will lose ground academically?





This article about charter real estate dealings was written by Professors Preston Green III, Bruce Baker, and Derek W. Black.

They argue that lax state laws allow charter operators to reap profits while maintaining an ostensibly “nonprofit” status.

While critics charge that charter schools are siphoning money away from public schools, a more fundamental issue frequently flies under the radar: the questionable business practices that allow people who own and run charter schools to make large profits.

Charter school supporters are reluctant to acknowledge, much less stop, these practices.

Given that charter schools are growing rapidly – from 1 million students in 2006 to more than 3.1 million students attending approximately 7,000 charter schoolsnow – shining a light on these practices can’t come too soon. The first challenge, however, is simply understanding the complex space in which charters operate – somewhere between public and private.

Unregulated competition

Charters were founded on the theory that market forces and competition would benefit public education. But policy reports and local government studiesincreasingly reveal that the charter school industry is engaging in the type of business practices that have led to the downfall of other huge industries and companies.

Charter schools regularly sign contracts with little oversight, shuffle money between subsidiaries and cut corners that would never fly in the real world of business or traditional public schools – at least not if the business wanted to stay out of bankruptcy and school officials out of jail. The problem has gotten so bad that a nationwide assessment by the U.S. Department of Education warned in a 2016 audit report that the charter school operations pose a serious “risk of waste, fraud and abuse” and lack “accountability.”


The biggest problem in charter school operations involves facility leases and land purchases. Like any other business, charters need to pay for space. But unlike other businesses, charters too often pay unreasonably high rates – rates that no one else in the community would pay.

One of the latest examples can be found in a January 2019 report from the Ohio auditor-general, which revealed that in 2016 a Cincinnati charter school paid $867,000 to lease its facilities. This was far more than the going rate for comparable facilities in the area. The year before, a Cleveland charter was paying half a million above market rate, according to the same report.

Why would a charter school do this? Most states require charter schools to be nonprofit. To make money, some of them have simply entered into contracts with separate for-profit companies that they also own. These companies do make money off students.

In other words, some “nonprofit” charter schools take public money and pay their owners with it. When this happens, it creates an enormous incentive to overpay for facilities and supplies and underpay for things like teachers and student services.

Many millions of dollars of public funds that were intended to educate children are squandered, they say.

It is called “legal graft.”


Perhaps you laughed, perhaps you were astonished when you read that Republicans in Ohio in the House voted for a law that would allow a student’s religious beliefs to give the wrong answers on science tests.

Peter Greene shows that the proposed bill is even worse than we thought.

He begins:

It’s called the “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019” and it sets out to accomplish a few things:

It removes the limits on exercising expression of student religious beliefs. The old, struck-out language  said the board of education could limit said expression to lunch period or other noninstructional time. That’s the piddly stuff.

Under the new language, “religious expression” (the stuff no longer limited to non-instructional time) includes prayer, gatherings (clubs, prayer groups, etc), distribution of written materials, and, well, anything religious, actually, including wearing religious gear or “expression of a religious viewpoint” (as long as it’s not obscene or indecent or vulgar). Cue the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster and the local Satanic Temple; if a student offers a prayer to Satan in the middle of English class and some Christians in the class find that indecent and vulgar, can it be suppressed? Congratulations to the first batch of lawyers and judges that are going to have to sort this out. Double congratulations to whatever government body ends up being responsible for determining which religions are state-certified to be protected under this law.

Students hall have access to school facilities before, during and after school that school hours to the same extent that secular activities may do so. Place your bets now on how many schools will simply ban all before and after school activities in order to sidestep this.

Forget about separation of church and state. The Good News evangelicals will convene their meetings in the middle of math and science classes.

The Founders were wiser than we when they sought to separate church and state, to be sure that every individual was free to practice their own religion (or lack thereof) in their own way outside of the public school.

Thus continues our nation’s slide into a pit of religious intolerance and invasions of religious liberty, all–ironically– in the name of religious freedom.

We are entering into a strange era where religious belief is being permitted to trump scientific fact.

Ohio legislators in the House passed legislation allowing students to receive credit for wrong answers on science tests if their answer is based on their religious beliefs.

Does anyone think that actions such as this one will prepare students to live and thrive in the modern world? Will students so ill prepared with knowledge and understanding of the scientific method be prepared for careers in science, engineering or technology or any other field that requires a firm grasp of evidence and reality? Will they even know how to think critically about history and current affairs?

Every Republican in the House supported the bill. It now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Ohio legislature is also enthusiastic about charter schools and vouchers.

Former Governor John Kasich presents himself to a national audience as a “moderate” but it was under his leadership that this kind of zealotry took root in Ohio.


Bill Phillis, retired deputy commissioner of the state education department, is a watchdog for Ohio schools, especially finances.

Charter schools in Ohio are called “community schools.”

He writes:

In 2014, the State Auditor’s office conducted an unannounced head count in 30 Ohio site-based charter schools. One charter had no students or 100% absenteeism. Eight had an absentee rate of more than 50 percent. Thirteen had an absentee rate of more than 30 percent.
More than a decade ago Scripps Howard News Service did a head count in several Ohio charters and found that as high as 66 percent of the students in one school were absent. Their report, Ghost Schools, was turned over to the Attorney General’s office but there was no public follow up.
The charter experiment should have been shut down at least 15 years ago.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 ||

Imagine a brand new nonprofit organization starting with more than $200 million. The usual group of billionaires has funded an organization called the City Fund, whose main purpose seems to be to buy local school board elections. Thus far, they have targeted Atlanta, Indianapolis, Newark, Denver, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Nashville, but they may have added or subtracted other sites. The City Fund is active in several elections. If they gain control, they will replace public schools with privately managed charter schools. The privatizers are really good at Disruption, not at improving schools or education.

William Phillis warns that the City Fund is active in Ohio, where most charter schools are rated D or F, lower-performing than even the urban districts they seek to dominate.

Charter zealots are running for board of education seats throughout the nation: Ohio is vulnerable
The warning issued by the Cincinnati Education Justice Coalition should attract the attention of all traditional public school advocates.
The charter industry is immersed in cash from the federal government, philanthropists, billionaire charter-friendly folks and, of course, funds siphoned from school districts. The charter establishment uses a toolkit full of strategies to expand its footprint in American education such as:
·        State takeover tactics
·        Portfolio school districts
·        Teach for America alliances
·        Political campaign contributions that overflow politicians’ coffers
Packing school boards with charter activists is a winner-take-all tactic they also use.
Ohio is not immune from any of the charter-promoting tactics. In fact, Ohio’s loosey-goosey regulations for the charter industry attract entrepreneurial opportunists and a variety of non-educators to the charter world.
Some school districts have already been taken over by charter-addicted board members who are bent on privatizing the public common school.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||

Bill Phillis reposts here an article by Denis Smith, who offers sound advice about the questions you should ask if you visit a charter school.

Denis Smith on Ron Rice of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
In a recent column in the Columbus Dispatch, Ron Rice of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools opened his piece with this statement. “The early stage of the 2020 presidential campaign has featured a lot of rhetoric about charter schools. Too much of it has been divorced from the reality of what charter schools are. So I have a special request of all the candidates: Go visit a charter school.”
Denis Smith, who used to work in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office, thinks that Ohio citizens should take Rice up on his offer to visit and learn more about schools that call themselves public entities but hide their private dimension. He offers suggestions when visiting a charter.
 The recent Op-Ed by Ron Rice Jr. of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools about the need for candidates to pay attention to charter schools contains an interesting – and inviting – sub-headline:
Cut through the rhetoric and go visit charter schools.
What a wonderful idea! I certainly hope that my fellow citizens will take Mr. Rice up on his request to see what they can find out about these peculiar institutions which are privately managed but publicly funded. If anyone should visit one of these schools, here are some questions visitors should ask to better understand the DNA of charters.
How is the school governed? How are the board members chosen? Since they are not democratically elected by registered voters, like public school board members, whom do they represent? Are the board members American citizens? Do the board members live in the school attendance area? How many other charter school boards might the board members be serving on at the same time?
What about the company that manages the school? Do they own the building in which the school is housed and use operating profits diverted from classroom costs to buy real estate? How much of the school budget is applied to rental costs? Does the management company also own the property where the school is housed? Has the company or school leader populated the board with individuals who may be conflicted with regard to whose interests, rather than the students, come first? 
While we’re at it, folks who might visit charters need to find out about the school leader. A lot of charters use imposing titles such as CEO and Superintendent in their listings. But does the school leader have a professional educator license and graduate training in teaching and school administration? A previous background in the classroom? What percentage of the total school budget goes to administration?
There aren’t as many questions to ask about the teachers inasmuch as state law requires the classroom-level staff to be licensed. However, how many of the teaching staff are completing their first year at the school? How many have worked at the school more than two years? 
These are but a few of a list of sample questions that should be posed to any charter school advocate. The reason for the choice of these particular questions is simple. Ohio law exempts charters from about 150 sections of the state code that apply to public schools. There is no requirement for a charter school board member to be a qualified voter, viz., citizen, nor is there any minimum educational requirement or professional license required to administer a charter school. In spite of Mr. Rice’s advocacy of charters, these are two of many fatal design flaws for these under-regulated schools that have been the subject of so many scandals over the years.
Ohio residents should visit some area charter schools and ask these and other questions. It’s time for voters to inform themselves about charter schools, critically examine their nature and purpose, and cut through the rhetoric offered by Mr. Rice and those who wish to privatize one of key elements of every community. Public education is about democracy and the investment citizens make in their schools, not about enabling private companies to convert public assets into profit and acquire private property that otherwise should belong to the taxpayers.
For these reasons, the term “public charter school” is in fact an oxymoron. The very use of that term is a fitting example of the kind of rhetoric Mr. Rice has encouraged us to avoid. Let us help him to cut through the rhetoric in this election season and take him up on the suggestion of visiting these privately operated schools which convert public funds for their own purposes. 
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 ||

Bill Phillis, retired deputy superintendent of schools for the state of Ohio, finds it hard to believe that a state legislature would seize control of a school district and remove its elected school board from office. When did Republicans become diehard enemies of local control? It has become clear that the state has no ideas about how to help low-scoring districts. None.

He writes:

Never thought this would happen in America
The state is in the process of replacing elected school board members in Youngstown. The electors in Youngstown elected board members. These board members will be replaced via the HB 70 process.
The Youngstown Board of Education has not been in control of the district for several years. State control of the district has not resulted in improvement. Therefore, elected board members are being removed from office because the state’s improvement process has failed. Sounds logical.
Youngstown board members have not been convicted of any crimes which would be cause for removal from office. Their hands have been tied by HB 70.
Congress and some state legislatures across the nation have not demonstrated a stellar performance. Should those elected officials be replaced by some convoluted appointment process?
How can Ohio legislators and the Governor allow this despicable process to come to fruition? HB 70 was enacted in less than 24 hours with no public input. The legislature could repeal HB 70 in less than 24 hours.


The State Legislature and Governor in Ohio must be the dumbest in the nation. They responded to low test scores in Youngstown by imposing state control of the district. Needless to say, the state did not have a clue about how to improve the schools, so the state is now replacing the powerless elected local board with mayoral control.

Jan Resseger writes here about this absurd turn of events. 

Officials from the Ohio Department of Education have begun replacing the locally elected school board in Youngstown with a mayoral appointed school board.

This week we learned about one more extension of autocratic state power backloaded in 2015 into the HB 70’s school district takeover of Youngstown. Because at the end of four years of state takeover, the Youngstown school district earned another “F” on the state report card, the state is now imposing a previously unknown provision of the 2015, HB 70, which established state takeover in the first place.

The replacement of the elected school board in Youngstown with a state-approved, mayoral-appointed school board is designed to punish Youngstown for not raising its grade to “C” during four years of state takeover. What is particularly shocking about the new development is that the locally elected school board has had no role to play in the operation of Youngstown’s schools since the time of the state takeover in 2015. The state has been running the district through a state appointed Academic Distress Commission which appointed a CEO to lead the school district.

Krish Mohip, the state-appointed CEO whose term ended on July 31, was never happy in his position, and last spring, several months prior to the end of his term, Mohip took family medical leave. At the time The Youngstown Vindicator‘s Amanda Tonoli reported that Mohip explained: “I’m going to take care of some issues that have accumulated at home, and I’m going to focus my attention there… I don’t see my absence as being a hindrance to all the great work that’s happened and will continue to happen over the next few years.” Mohip left, but he did not resign.  Instead he collected the rest of his $170,000 salary.  Tonoli added: “A longevity provision in Mohip’s contract allows him a $10,000 payout if he completes his full contract.”

Nobody was sorry to see Mohip go. The chair of the Academic Distress Commission explained: “We have to uphold what the contract says… We are following the law and following the contract that was agreed upon with Krish Mohip.” The blatant arrogance of Mohip’s mode of departure was merely the latest example of his abuse of the public trust.  He did not ever move his family to Youngstown, for example.

A new CEO, Justin Jennings, formerly the school superintendent in Saginaw, Michigan, was recently appointed by the state-appointed, Youngstown Academic Distress Commission.

Under HB 70, the residents of the school district have been permitted by the state to elect a local board of education, but its only power has been to decide whether and when to put a property tax levy on the ballot.

Corporate reformers have run out of ideas. They continue to believe that democracy is the problem, that democracy causes low test scores. Everything they try has failed. They fail and fail. They are shameless.




Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, reports on a new study that undercuts the rationale for state takeovers.

He writes:

Research study: Students learn no less in poor, urban schools than other schools
OSU Professor of Sociology, Dr. Douglas Downey, lead author of a recent study , found that students in urban districts with high concentrations of disadvantaged students learn as much during the school year as those in wealthier districts. Disadvantaged students, of course, start school at a lower level of development, but according to the research study, disadvantaged students don’t lose ground while in school.
This research (and common sense) helps dispel the myth that districts serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students are “failing” just because of low test scores.
This study should inform state officials who are bent on state takeover of school districts (HB 70.) Because a school district has low test scores is not justification for state takeover. (Besides Ohio’s takeover of Youngstown and Lorain have not improved the districts.)
If state officials want the state to takeover some school districts, all districts should be in the pool of candidates for takeover, not just those that serve high concentrations of disadvantaged students.
Ditch HB 70. Just do it.
 The Distribution of School Quality: Do Schools Serving Mostly White and High-SES Children Produce the Most Learning?
Douglas B. Downey, David M. Quinn, Melissa Alcaraz
First Published August 23, 2019 Research Article
Article information 
What is schools’ role in the stratification system? One view is that schools are an important mechanism for perpetuating inequality because children from advantaged backgrounds (white and high socioeconomic) enjoy better school learning environments than their disadvantaged peers. But it is difficult to know this with confidence because children’s development is a product of both school and nonschool factors, making it a challenge to isolate school’s role. A novel approach for isolating school effects is to estimate the difference in learning when school is in versus out, what is called impact. Scholars employing this strategy have come to a remarkable conclusion—that schools serving disadvantaged children produce as much learning as those serving advantaged children. The empirical basis for this position is modest, however, and so we address several shortcomings of the previous research by analyzing a nationally representative sample of about 3,500 children in 270 schools from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Cohort of 2011. With more comprehensive data and better scales, we also find no difference in impact on reading scores across schools serving poor or black children versus those serving nonpoor or white children. These patterns challenge the view that differences in school quality play an important role shaping achievement gaps and prompt us to reconsider theoretical positions regarding schools and inequality.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||