Charters not making the grade

Published 12:38 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ohio’s public school systems have been at odds with the state’s charter schools for the near decade and a half since they were created. But data from the recent state report cards show that public school administrators — and taxpayers — should have legitimate concerns.

Charter institutions, called community schools in the state, blur the line between public and private primary and secondary schools. They receive more than $500 million in state funds each year. But, because tuition is free, they are considered public, even though they have far more flexibility on what is taught and how they spend their dollars.

School administrators across the state have rightfully raised concerns over whether or not the charter school systems drain money from public schools without offering quality results.

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The raw numbers certainly raise red flags.

A total of 138, or 23 percent, of public school districts were rated as Excellent with Distinction. Only four, or 1 percent, of the charter schools received the same marks.

Forty one percent, 249 districts, were ranked Excellent. That dropped to 7 percent, 26 schools, for charter institutions.

Under Effective, 172 public schools, 28 percent, were ranked. For charter schools that number was 54, which equates to 15 percent.

Only 6 percent, 38 school districts, were ranked as in Continuous Improvement compared to 27 percent, 96 total, of charter schools in the same category.

Only 11 schools, less than 1 percent, were listed as under academic watch. A total of 55 schools, 16 percent, of charter schools fell in this dangerous category.

The worst ranking, Academic Emergency, is the equivalent of an F. Only two public schools received this, that is far less than 1 percent. However, 66 charter schools, 19 percent, earned these marks.

This data doesn’t mean that charter schools are all bad. They aren’t.

But it does show that legislators and taxpayers should demand more accountability to ensure that valuable resources aren’t being diverted from public schools without good results.

We expect better of our students and we must expect more from our schools — both public and charter.