Archives for category: Ohio

Writing in ohiocapital.com, Jeanne Melvin and Denis Smith denounced the central role that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute plays in directing education policy in Ohio. TBF is the think tank of the Ohio Republican Party; that party has controlled the state in recent years. It is curious that TBF directs education policy in Ohio since TBF is based in Washington, D.C.

Melvin is a parent activist, and Smith worked for the Ohio Department of Education.

In Ohio, TBF has been a strong advocate for high-stakes testing and school privatization. It has pushed charter schools and other conservative reforms in Ohio.

As the article says, TBF is an advocacy organization, not a think tank. Its policy positions are aligned with other conservative organizations, still promoting the failed reforms of the past two decades, unable to imagine schools that are not subject to high-stakes testing, unable to imagine schools that are not governed by carrots-and-sticks. TBF is also a charter school authorizer and collects a percentage of the state revenue for every student who enrolls in one of their charter schools. Many of their charter schools have failed. Most charter schools in Ohio are rated low-performing by the state.

Jan Resseger writes that the Ohio Legislature is up to its familiar tricks.

While no one was looking, it passed more voucher legislation, again brazenly violating the state constitution, which requires public funding of public schools and forbids public funding of private schools. Let us not forget that former Governor John Kasich was instrumental in this violation of the public trust.

Five years ago right at the end of a spring session of the Ohio Legislature, a group of state senators added a long amendment to House Bill 70, which was about expanding the number of full service, wraparound community learning centers—schools with medical and social services located right in the school. The amendment had nothing to do with the subject of the original bill. The amendment’s purpose was to establish the state takeover of the school district in Youngstown and set up a procedure for state takeovers of other so-called “failing” school districts. A deal had been cut. No opponent testimony was permitted. The Ohio Senate passed the amended HB 70 and sent it back for quick approval by the Ohio House. Within hours, Governor John Kasich had signed it, and without public input, an appointed Academic Distress Commission supplanted the elected school board in Youngstown.

This time the subject is vouchers.

Last spring, just as everything shut down due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, both houses of the Ohio Legislature debated changes in the EdChoice voucher program and came up with two separate bills. EdChoice eligibility is currently described by legislators as “performance-based.” The state designates EdChoice schools by these schools’ low ratings on the state’s school district report card, which everybody agrees is flawed. Last spring the program was expected to double in size. At angry hearings, school districts complained because EdChoice vouchers are funded through something called “the school district deduction.” The House plan would have funded the vouchers out of the state budget; the Senate plan kept the school district deduction.

Read the rest of this sorry story. It is especially sorry since legislators already know that vouchers in Ohio do not improve test scores; they actually drag them down. For shame!

What is the state of Ohio paying for charters and vouchers? From state data and evaluations, we know that neither sector performs as well as the state’s public schools. The legislature likes to fund failure.

Bill Phillis, who retired as deputy state superintendent and is expert about school finance, has the answer:

Current Cost of School Choice

The cost of school choice borne by the state and school districts is enormous. Public school leaders and advocates should be alarmed.
Ohio has been private school-friendly beginning a half century ago. In HB 166, the state provides private schools with $139,995,470 for administrative cost reimbursement and $309,878,268 for auxiliary services, for a total of $449,873,738. One half billion!

Additional direct state subsidies for charter schools and vouchers in HB 166 for FY 21 and FY 22 include:   

           


Charter facilities                                                $40,000,000 
 Quality charter schools                                  $60,000,000               
Public charter schools                                     $14,000,000               
EdChoice expansion                                      $178,240,758              
Choice programs                                                $9,780,309                               Total                                                $302,021,067

Hence, the direct state appropriations for private schools, charters and vouchers in FY 21 and FY 22 total $751,894,805.

If the deductions from school districts in FY 22 are equal to the deductions in FY 21 for vouchers and charters, the total will be $2,352,881,306. Therefore, the grand total of tax dollars going to private schools and charters in FY 21 and FY 22 is $3,104,776,111.

Charter school deductions from school districts started with $10,784,924 in FY 99 and escalated each year to $929,884,915 in FY 15. Since FY 15, the total charter deduction has reduced slowly to $827,136,047 in the current school year. Vouchers started in 2008 with $42,355,792 in deductions and have escalated to $349,304,605 in the current year.

HB 166 is set to expand EdChoice vouchers exponentially. The legislature gave a one-year “freeze” in the expansion but the choice community will no doubt prevail in the expansion. 

The EdChoice litigation effort is designed to outlaw the EdChoice voucher scheme.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 | ohioeanda@sbcglobal.netwww.ohiocoalition.org

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding reports that an ECOT insider has agreed to help the state in its effort to recoup some of the millions it lost by paying the low-performing virtual charter school for almost 20 years.

He writes:

Former ECOT treasurer willing to help press state claims against the ECOT Man, William Lager


The Attorney General asked the court to approve a settlement with the former treasurer of ECOT according to a memorandum filed by the Attorney General. The settlement would drop charges against the former ECOT treasurer in exchange for her providing evidence for the state’s case against Bill Lager, the ECOT Man. The former treasurer has indicated that ECOT’s board was not apprised of its legal rights and relevant facts when it approved contracts with Lager’s companies.


The claims against Lager pursuant to illegal contracts total $161,602,806. Lager also bilked the taxpayers more than $100 million for funds wrongfully received from the state. Over the nearly two decades of collecting money for phantom students, ECOT’s illegal “take” might have been in the hundreds of millions.


In the charter industry, boards are typically puppets whose strings are pulled by the charter operator. This is a typical scenario: a profit seeking individual or group shops for a sponsor. After being authorized (sponsored), the individual/group sets up a charter school and appoints a board. In most cases, the board is controlled by the operator-just the opposite of what the relationship ought to be.


State officials (governors, legislators, auditors, attorney generals, state superintendents and Ohio Department of Education personnel) should be embarrassed that they didn’t nip this ECOT fraud in the bud. ECOT is the tip of the iceberg in charter fraud. Charter students have been robbed of high quality educational opportunities and the taxpayers have been bilked via the charter industry. State officials have enacted legislation that permits such corruption.

Businessman William Lager launched “The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow” in 2000. Over nearly 20 years, he collected $1 billion from the taxpayers of Ohio, despite the fact that ECOT had the lowest graduation rate in the nation, high attrition, and low scores. Lager created related businesses to which he gave contracts for services. In 2019, he declared bankruptcy rather than pay multimillion dollar fines to the state because of inflated enrollments. Jeb Bush was a commencement speaker one year, Governor Kasich another year. It was great while it lasted: for Lager.

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Inadequacy writes:

The ECOT Man: no fiduciary responsibility and no conflict of interest.

William Lager, the ECOT Man, is being sued by the state for recovery of funds ECOT gained illegally. Lager created Altair Learning Management to manage ECOT along with IQ Innovation support services. He also engaged a company owned by his daughter for public relations purposes.

In a recent filing with the court, Mr. Lager argues that no conflict of interest existed in this arrangement.


He founded ECOT, Altair and IQ Innovation. Lager’s daughter’s PR firm provided services for marketing and PR. No conflict of interest here!
Mr. Lager also argues that in his role in the operation of ECOT, he had no fiduciary responsibility. He says he had no access to or authority over the public funds ECOT received.


Right!

Lager did make some legitimate points in his filing that should be of interest to taxpayers. He indicates that ECOT had received awards for excellence from the State Auditor and that State Auditor had been a graduation speaker at ECOT.


That state officials have been negligent in holding charter operators accountable is well known.

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Advocacy, is a retired state superintendent in the state. He has focused like a laser on the importance of funding public education equitably and adequately. He writes here about the staggering cost of privatizing public money to pay for charters, virtual charters, and vouchers. This is money deducted from the public schools, which outperform both charters and vouchers and the failing virtual charter industry.

He writes:




The direct state subsidies to private schools and school choice programs will cost taxpayers $751,894,805 in FY 21 and FY 22; additionally, $2,352, 881,306 will be deducted from school districts for vouchers and charters





The total direct state budget appropriations in HB 166 for private school subsidies, charter and voucher programs in FY 21 and FY 22 are $751,894,805. $344,027,972 of the appropriations is in the General Revenue section of the budget and the rest is in non-General Revenue sections. This $751,894,805 is in addition to $2,352,881,306 that will be deducted from school districts, assuming that about the same amount is deducted in FY 22 as in FY 21.


Therefore the grand total of taxpayer revenue for private schools and school choice programs in FY 21 and FY 22 will be $3,104,776,111. The cost of transportation that is incurred by school districts for school choice programs is in addition.


The FY 21 and FY 22 direct state appropriation line items in HB 166 for private school subsidies, and voucher and charter school programs are listed here.


**flows through districts from a direct state subsidy
The direct state subsidies to private schools and school choice programs will cost taxpayers $751,894,805 in FY 21 and FY 22; additionally, $2,352, 881,306 will be deducted from school districts for vouchers and charters

The total direct state budget appropriations in HB 166 for private school subsidies, charter and voucher programs in FY 21 and FY 22 are $751,894,805. $344,027,972 of the appropriations is in the General Revenue section of the budget and the rest is in non-General Revenue sections. This $751,894,805 is in addition to $2,352,881,306 that will be deducted from school districts, assuming that about the same amount is deducted in FY 22 as in FY 21.

Therefore the grand total of taxpayer revenue for private schools and school choice programs in FY 21 and FY 22 will be $3,104,776,111. The cost of transportation that is incurred by school districts for school choice programs is in addition.

The FY 21 and FY 22 direct state appropriation line items in HB 166 for private school subsidies, and voucher and charter school programs are listed here.

**flows through districts from a direct state subsidy

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a report on Ohio charters, claiming that they were very successful. (TBF is a rightwing organization that supports charters and vouchers.) The Columbus Dispatch wrote that the report demonstrated that charter schools in Ohio are more successful than the state’s public schools. But Stephen Dyer reviewed the report and concluded that its findings are based on cherrypicking schools and manipulating data. In fact, he writes, Ohio’s charter sector continues to be low-performing compared to the state’s public schools, whose students lose funding to charters. The state has recently taken almost $900 million annually from its public schools to pay for a mediocre charter sector.

Dyer is a former state legislator who has written often about the charter industry. He is now Director of Government Relations, Communications and Marketing at the Ohio Education Association. (I served on the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation/Institute from 1998-2009).

He writes:

Fordham Strikes Again

Cherry picking schools; manipulating data; grasping at straws

Look, the Fordham Institute has been improving lately, calling for more charter school oversight and talking a good game. But I guess sometimes old habits die hard, and in Ohio – the cradle of the for-profit charter school movement – those habits tend to linger especially long.

Take the group’s latest report – The Impact of Ohio Charter Schools on Student Outcomes, 2016-2019 – is yet another attempt to make Ohio’s famously poor performing charter school sector seem not quite as bad (though I give them kudos for admitting the obvious – that for-profit operators don’t do a good job educating kids and we need continued tougher oversight of the sector).

But folks, really. On the whole, Ohio charter schools are not very good. For example, of all the potential A-F grades charters could have received since that system was adopted in the 2012-2013 school year, Ohio charter schools have received more Fs than all other grades combined.

So how could the Fordham report claim, as the Columbus Dispatch headline writers put it: “Students at Ohio charter schools show greater academic gains”?

Simple.

Fordham ignored all but a fraction of the Ohio charter schools in operation during the FY16-FY19 school years, including Ohio’s scandalously poor performing e-schools (yes, ECOT was still running then), the state’s nationally embarrassing dropout recovery charter schools (which have difficulty graduating even 10 percent of their students in 8 years), and the state’s special education schools – some of whom have been cited for habitually billing taxpayers for students they never had.

In other words, they only looked at the best possible charter clusters in the state. And even though they essentially ignored the worst actors in the state (effectively ignoring how more than ½ of all charter students perform), the “performance gains” they point to are not impressive.

For example, “Students attending charter schools from grades 4 to 8 improved from the 30th percentile on state math and English language arts exams to about the 40th percentile. High school students showed little or no gains on end-of-course exams.”

Really? A not-even-10-percentile improvement? And none in high school? That’s it?

How about this: “Attending a charter school in high school had no impact on the likelihood a student would receive a diploma.”

So we spend $828 million a year sending state money to charters that could go to kids in local public schools to have literally zero impact on attaining a diploma?

Egad.

Another problem: the report says charter students have better attendance rates. No word on whether the fact all charter students must be bused by local school districts, which in turn don’t have to bus district students, had any impact on that metric.

(Hint: it does.)

The report found better performance from charter students in at least one of the math or English standardized tests in 5 of Ohio’s 8 major urban districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown). Only in Columbus did they outperform the district in both reading and math.

The report ignores that ECOT took more kids from Columbus in these years than any other charter school in Columbus. And, of course, those kids did far worse than Columbus students.

But even cherry picking students. And data. And methodology, Fordham only found slightly better performance in one of two tests the study examined (again, Ohio requires tests in many subjects, but I digress) in 5 urban districts, better performance in both tests in 1 and no better performance in Cincinnati and Toledo, which lost about $500 million in state revenue to charters during these 4 years the study examined.

Of course, the study also ignored that about ½ of all charter school students do NOT come from the major urban districts, including large percentages of students in many of the brick and mortar schools Fordham examined for this study. For example, about 30 percent of Breakthrough Schools students in Cleveland don’t come from Cleveland. Yet Breakthrough’s performance is always only compared with Cleveland.

Ohio charter school performance isn’t complicated. Overall, it’s really not good, especially when you look at the approximately 50 percent of students who attend online, dropout recovery or special needs schools. Are there exceptions? Of course. But here’s what the most recent data tell us:

  • More than 34% of Ohio public school graduates have a college degree within 6 years. Just 12.7% of charter school graduates do
  • More than 58% of Ohio public school graduates are enrolled in college within two years; only 37.2% of Ohio charter school graduates are.

Why is this important? Because if charter schools performed the same as Ohio’s public schools, 750 more charter school students would have college degrees. Why does that matter? Because a college degree will allow you to make about $1 million more during your lifetime than not having it. So it can be said that Ohio charter schools are costing Ohioans about $750 million in potential earnings, just from one class of students!

Some more:

  • The average dropout recovery charter school has less than 0.5% of its students earning an industry recognized credential within 9 years and less than 0.2% of those students earn at least 3 dual enrollment credits within 4 years.
  • In 52 of the state’s 68 dropout recovery charter schools, no kids earned at least 3 dual enrollment credits within 4 years
  • In 33 of the state’s 68 dropout recovery charter schools, no kids earned an industry recognized credential within 9 years!
  • In more than 1 in 5 Ohio charter schools, more than 15% of their teachers teach outside their accredited subjects
  • The median percentage of inexperienced teachers in Ohio charter schools is 34.1%. The median in an Ohio public school building is 6%.

During the time period this report examined, nearly $4 billion in state money was transferred from kids in local public school districts to Ohio’s privately run charter schools. And even if you look at the very best slice of the mud pie that is Ohio’s charter school sector, you get perhaps modest gains – not even 10 percentiles worth though – in a few of the schools.

But that didn’t stop Fordham from excitedly declaring at the beginning of its report that this study demonstrates that “Ohio’s brick-and-mortar charters have proven themselves capable of providing quality options—and it’s time to give families across the state similar opportunities.” Or that “high-quality” charters should be expanded.

One more dirty little secret about “high-quality” charters? Historically, the “high-quality” school buildings in Ohio’s major urban districts actually outperform the “high-quality” charter schools in those districts.

So maybe the answer, especially during this pandemic, is expanding “high-quality” local public school buildings, or investing at least some of the $828 million currently being sent to Ohio’s mostly poor performing charter schools back to local public schools so they have a better shot at being dubbed “high quality”, thereby expanding the number of “high-quality” options for students?

Just a thought…

Bill Phillis, founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding explains here where the funding comes from for vouchers: public schools pay from their budgets. The cost this year is nearly $350 million, deducted from the public schools that enroll nearly 90% of the state’s children. A study funded by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute showed that vouchers are ineffective and that children who use them fall behind their peers in public schools. Yet the Leislature wants to increase the funding for vouchers. Why invest in failure?

Deductions from school districts to voucher schools increased from $42,355,792 in FY 2008 to $349,304,605 in FY 2021


In 13 years, voucher deductions have increased each year except for FY 2011 to FY 2012 wherein there was a decrease of 9%. The percentage increase during the period from FY 2008 to FY 2020 has fluctuated between 7.2% and 86%. See the table below:


2008 to 2009  34%

2009 to 2010  22.8%

2010 to 2011 13.2%

2011 to 2012 -9%

2012 to 2013 86%

2013 to 2014 15.3%

2014 to 2015 15%

2015 to 2016 12%

2016 to 2017 9.1%

2017 to 2018 11.8%

2018 to 2019 7.20%

2019 to 2020 23.3%

2020 to 2021 0%

If the HB 166 EdChoice voucher expansion goes into effect next year, there will be a dramatic surge in voucher deductions.


The voucher advocates have powerful winds behind their sails. They will surge forward until state officials cave in to their demands—a voucher for every student.


No school district will be spared; hence, it is imperative that every district join the EdChoice voucher lawsuit.

Jan Resseger writes here about the almost complete lack of leadership at the national level–and even at the state level–in protecting our children in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. The failure of Congress to agree on federal aid for cities and states is a glaring example of indifference to the health and well-being of children and families and teachers. The breakdown of negotiations between Nancy Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin can be attributed to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, who don’t want to see any aid go to blue states and cities. This is tragic because the victims are children.

She writes:

I do not remember a time when the wellbeing of children has been so totally forgotten by the leaders of the political party in power in the White House and the Congress. This fall, school district leaders have been left on their own as they try to serve and educate children while the COVID-19 pandemic continues raging across the states. School leaders are trying to hold it all together this fall at the same time their state budgets in some places have already been cut.

In Ohio, the COVID-19 recession is only exacerbating a public school fiscal crisis driven by a long history of inequitable school funding and the expansion of school privatization. On November 3, the school district where I live has been forced to put a local operating levy on the ballot simply to avert catastrophe. EdChoice vouchers, funded by a “local school district deduction” extract $6,000 for each high school voucher student and $4,650 for each K-8 voucher student right out of our school district’s budget. Although these students attend private and religious schools, the state counts voucher students as part of our per-pupil enrollment, which means that the state pays the district some of the cost of the voucher. In a normal year, there is a net loss because the vouchers are worth more than our district’s state basic aid, but this year the loss is even worse: In he current state budget, the Legislature froze the state’s contribution to the state’s school districts at the FY 2019 level. This means that the state is not allocating any additional funding to our school district to cover the new vouchers the state is awarding this year from our local budget. The Plain Dealer reports that our district will lose $9 million to the EdChoice vouchers this school year, and the school treasurer reports that 94 percent of all vouchers being awarded to students in our district are for students who have never been enrolled in our public schools. In essence, this means that across Ohio, the Legislature is forcing local school districts to pay for private and religious education.

This year, however, on top of the voucher expansion, COVID-19 has affected local school budgets across our state. Last spring, when the coronavirus shut down businesses and caused widespread layoffs, the Governor significantly reduced what the state had already promised to school districts in the state budget.  Across the state’s 610 school districts, over $300 million—which the school districts had been promised before the fiscal year ended on June 30—just didn’t arrive. All of this has created a fiscal emergency for school districts across Ohio.

Only the AFT and Randi Weingarten, she writes, have remained alert and warned of the dangers of Congressional inaction. But the party in power is not listening.

Maureen Reedy is an experienced teacher and advocate for Ohio’s public schools. She wrote a letter to the editor which all public school supporters should read:

https://www.dispatch.com/story/opinion/letters/2020/10/05/dispatch-letter-writers-take-issue-1-dewines-tweet-and-election/5884874002/

To the Editor:

Let me get this straight: James Ragland, a first-term Columbus school board member, is also a paid advocate for private and for-profit charter schools in Ohio? (Dispatch article, Sept. 23)

In the business world, Ragland’s roles would be a blatant conflict of interest — the fox guarding the henhouse in violation of his fiduciary obligation as a publicly elected board member.

Which hat was Ragland wearing when he joined Betsy DeVos at the School Choice Roundtable in July? Was he participating as the director of provider outreach for School Choice Ohio or as a Columbus City Schools board member?

Clearly, Ragland, while working for School Choice Ohio, has been a player in moving almost $1 billion from Columbus City Schools to fund lower-performing charter and private voucher schools from 2017 to 2021. During this same period, Ohio’s higher performing public schools have lost close to $5 billion to charter and private voucher schools.

Ohio’s public schools are the schools of choice for over 90% of Ohio’s schoolchildren who attend their neighborhood public schools.

Ohio’s public school four-year graduation rate is 85%, about double the graduation rate for charter schools in Ohio.

Caught in this COVID pandemic, we are in the grip of an unprecedented public health and economic crisis where it is clearly unsustainable to drain billions of dollars from Ohio’s public schools.

Ragland cannot have it both ways. Supporting the mission of Columbus City Schools as a board member while being paid to advocate for taking almost a billion dollars a year from Ohio’s public schools to fund lower-performing private and charter schools is wrong.

This conflict of interest in “robbing Peter to pay Paul” must end.

Maureen Reedy, Columbus


https://www.dispatch.com/story/opinion/letters/2020/10/05/dispatch-letter-writers-take-issue-1-dewines-tweet-and-election/5884874002/