Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy reports on efforts by the charter industry in Ohio to block any meaningful oversight or accountability:
Here we go again-Legislators halt charter accountability, although the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) may have been up to mischief
It appears that legislators on the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) latched on to some technicalities regarding “retroactive dates” to stop rules promulgated to hold charter sponsors accountable. Jim Siegel’s August 23 Dispatch article gives a play-by-play account of the August 22 JCARR meeting. Those in control of the meeting brought in their junkyard dog to unleash on the ODE witness. But several charter advocates who testified were treated with kid gloves.
There is some speculation that ODE is angling to weaken charter accountability by intentionally creating an invitation for litigation within the rules.
One of the primary reasons for the failed charter school experiment is that sponsors (which have collected in the range of $270 million over the years in a non-transparent, unaccountable environment) set their own agenda which could amount to little or nothing in terms of providing assistance to the schools they sponsor. More than 200 charters have closed or failed to open. Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted primarily because charter sponsors have not done due diligence. Why? Because they didn’t have to.
The charterites were out in force to oppose the rules during the JCARR committee hearing. This should not have been a surprise. During the August 11 & 12 State Auditor’s Charter School Summit there was a great amount of whining about the proposed rules for sponsors. The Summit served as a springboard for the display of charter power at the JCARR meeting.
The charter industry and its legislative allies, once again, have thwarted charter accountability; thus, taxpayers and students are again left behind.
Here is the linked article, which is a podcast:
By Jim Siegel The Columbus Dispatch • Tuesday August 23, 2016 7:21 AM
Legislative Republicans blocked an agency rule today that is key to completing new charter sponsor evaluations designed to weed out poor performers.
Those first-ever sponsor evaluations, crafted to help bring more accountability to a charter system sharply criticized both in Ohio and nationally, are supposed to come in October but are now clouded with uncertainty. The move to block the new rule, which Republicans said largely hinged on the Department of Education trying to enact it retroactively back to Aug. 1, comes less than seven months after a sweeping charter school reform law took effect.
The acrimonious relationship between the Department of Education and GOP lawmakers was on full display before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, fired thorny questions at Diane Lease, the department’s chief legal counsel, for several minutes.
Coley, R-West Chester, was a replacement on the committee for another senator who said he was on a family vacation.
“Had the department had its act together, you could have complied with all the rules of JCARR…w ithout imposing rules that have a retroactive effect,” Coley told Lease.
Lease referred to a “compressed timeline” in getting rules together for the October evaluations. “We believe we are doing what is required under the legislation. We don’t believe it’s retroactive.”
Coley replied, “I’m a trial lawyer. Don’t do that to me.” Earlier, he said the rule “ demonstrates the height of arrogance.”
The new sponsor evaluations are based on three parts — academic performance, adhering to best practices and compliance with state laws and rules. The rule up for debate Monday related to the compliance with 319 laws.
Segments of the charter school community have been fighting various aspects of the new evaluations, including asking that sponsors get an extra year before consequences take hold.
“This is a clear case of Republican charter school industry allies doing everything in their power to derail, disrupt and delay new reforms that would help hold charter schools to a reasonable standard of achievement,” said Rep. Greta Johnson, D-Akron.
The rule isn’t dead, but it is going back to the Common Sense Initiative office, which determines if agency rules have an unusually detrimental impact on businesses. The CSI office had already issued a report on the rule, but critics said the sample of charter sponsors was too small, and they submitted estimates before knowing what the department required of them.
The CSI will spend up to 30 days reviewing the rule again. Then the clock restarts on the JCARR process, which takes at least another 30 days.
“We may be back here the next month with the same impasse,” said Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, chairman of JCARR, referring to the retroactive date. “There is a distinct unwillingness on (the department’s) part to work with us on this.”
Some suggested Gov. John Kasich could implement an emergency rule that takes effect for 120 days. A Kasich spokeswoman said the governor has not been approached about that.
Even without the rule, all but two charter sponsors submitted validations on July 25 that they are following state laws.
“Even if there wasn’t a question about the dates, many of the same players would still be here saying the process wasn’t correct for some reason,” said Chad Aldis of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a sponsor that has advocated for more accountability.
“If legislators are really concerned about retro-activity, then we should take action to quickly rectify that issue.”
David Cash, testifying on behalf of charter sponsor St. Aloysius, estimated the cost of compiling the information at $240,000 for the sponsor’s 43 schools.
“In the eyes of (the department), student education takes a back seat to redundant client’s work,” Cash said.
Reps. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, and Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, voted to block the rule, while Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, voted to allow it.
“The department has said this is an extension of existing law, therefore nothing has changed,” Duffey said. “But on its face, the rule is amplifying the law and creating new hoops people have to jump through.”