5 reasons to revoke USDOE charter grant to Ohio

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Sept. 28 awarded Ohio a $71 million grant to expand charter schools – the largest grant awarded to any state. This despite Ohio’s charter schools making the state a laughingstock across the nation. Yes, the legislature finally passed a charter school accountability bill; however, the grant was awarded before the bill even passed and in spite of much controversy and scandal surrounding charters and the Ohio Department of Education this summer. It certainly appears that Arne Duncan and the USDOE are more intent on adhering to their wrong-headed education agenda than actually looking at information and making a decision that is best for our students.

We cannot let this financial misstep by the USDOE go unchallenged. On Oct. 1, the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) sent a letter to Secretary Duncan asking him to suspend the grant until Ohio fixes its charter problems. Since that time, even more has been revealed about the deceptive information in the charter school grant application. That is why I am asking you to sign this petition calling for the revocation of the $71 million Ohio charter school grant.

Here are just five reasons, as recently presented in the Columbus Dispatch, (though many more could be given) why this grant should be revoked:

1. The man who wrote the grant, David Hansen, had to resign his position at the Ohio Department of Education just days after submitting the grant application. His resignation came after it was revealed that he inflated the ratings of some charter schools by scrubbing data of others that showed they earned failing grades. Eliminate the F’s and other charters look better than they are in reality.

2. In staying true to his data-scrubbing propensity, on the grant application, Hansen indicated that there were no poor-performing charters in 2012-2013. The truth is that a third of all charters failed to meet a single standard. In 2013-14, almost half failed to meet a single standard. In addition, 60 percent of charters received a “D” or “F” on the Performance Index.

3. The application boasts an automatic closure law, but fails to mention that the law is not currently being used because it is suspended and won’t be re-instated until at least 2017-18.

4. Online for-profit charters are eligible to receive money, even those that are some of the worst performers in the state. Of course, these are also the ones that had their data scrubbed to make charters look much better than they are in reality.

5. A significant portion of the grant – $10.25 million – is earmarked for the creation of high-quality seats in a recovery district. Think Youngstown and the last-minute additions made to House Bill 70 that allowed for a state takeover of the public schools there and possible transition to charters. The original HB 70 was aimed at structuring our public schools to ensure that all available community resources were utilized to meet all the needs of students, including their non-academic needs. The amendments to HB 70 reformed the academic distress commission and redefined what happens in a recovery district, including bringing in an accelerator to create charters there. The accelerator, by the way, is undefined, is not accountable to anyone, and never goes away – even if the school works to rise out of academic distress. In other words, the amended HB 70 does the exact opposite of the original bill. It takes resources OUT of the school to pour into a charter school system that has a drastically poor track record in Ohio. To top it off, the charter school grant awarded by USDOE gives them the money to make it happen.

We cannot sit quietly while the USDOE gives Ohio $71 million to expand the failed charter school program in our state. Join me in signing this petition to revoke this charter school grant.

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