Friday, November 09, 2007

Ohio Goes After Charter Schools That Are Failing

COLUMBUS - Ohio became a test tube for the nation’s charter school movement during a decade of Republican rule here, when a wide-open authorization system and plenty of government seed money led to the schools’ explosive proliferation.

But their record has been spotty. This year, the state’s school report card gave more than half of Ohio’s 328 charter schools a D or an F.

Now its Democratic governor and attorney general, elected when Democrats won five of Ohio’s six top posts last November, are cracking down on the schools, which receive public money but are run by independent operators. And across the country, charter school advocates are watching nervously, fearful the backlash could spread.

Attorney General Marc Dann is suing to close three failing charter schools and says he is investigating dozens of others. It is the first effort by any attorney general to close low-performing charter schools.

Gov. Ted Strickland said he wanted to carry out his own crackdown.

“Perhaps somewhere, charter schools have been implemented in a defensible manner, where they have provided quality,” he said. “But the way they’ve been implemented in Ohio has been shameful. I think charter schools have been harmful, very harmful, to Ohio students.”

Some 4,000 charter schools now operate across the nation, most advertising themselves as a smaller, safer alternative to the neighborhood school. Nationwide, the movement has gained traction among Democrats, partly because of the successes of a few quality nonprofit operators.

But some charters are mediocre, and Ohio has a far higher failure rate than most states. Fifty-seven percent of its charter schools, most of which are in cities, are in academic watch or emergency, compared with 43 percent of traditional public schools in Ohio’s big cities....

This from the New York Times.

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