According to a new report, since 2006, $30 million in federal Charter School Program Grants (CSP grants) went to 108 Ohio charter schools that either closed or never opened.
Belly Up: A Review of Federal Charter School Program Grants, by Know Your Charter, a collaboration of the Ohio Education Association and think tank Innovation Ohio, catalogs the funding trail of 292 Ohio charter schools that received $99.6 million total in federal aid since 2006.
The purpose of the report, according to its authors, is to tell the story how the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has given money “hand-over-fist to Ohio charter schools” that are consistently poor performers.
In 2015, DOE announced $71 million in CSP Grants to Ohio charter schools–the largest share of any state–but put the award on hold in November. Many criticized the award, according to Cleveland.com. Still reeling from the controversy over the state’s failure to count the F grading of online charter schools like Ohio Virtual Academy, OHDELA and the state’s 90 dropout recovery schools, the report fingers the Ohio Department of Education for its lackluster oversight of the state’s charter schools, as well as DOE’s ability to make grant decisions.
The reports key findings are:
- At least 26 Ohio charter schools that received nearly $4 million in federal CSP grants never even opened and there are no records to indicate the funds were returned
- The charter schools that received CSP grants and received State Report Card grades in the 2014-2015 school year had a median Performance Index score that was lower than all but 15 Ohio school districts (graded D)
Belly Up cites numerous federal reports and Ohio state audits, determining that the failure rate of CSP grants in Ohio is at least 37 percent and is a wake up call to federal policymakers and regulators. The report also provides:
- Case study example summaries of failed charter schools
- Details about ODE’s operations
- Timeline of the state of Ohio’s actions and DOE’s in regards to the 2015 $71M CSP grants
- Appendix listing all closed charter schools and the dates and amounts of federal awards
Know Your Charter has supported public schools through the Ohio Charter School Accountability Project. Its website features a tool based on public data that compares the state’s 400 charter schools to its public schools. The group also arranges press events for public school officials, such as a January 2016 press event where local education officials such as Tony Dunn, Belpre city school superintendent, voiced their concerns over what they consider to be siphoning of tax dollars to charter schools:
Everyday, students, staff and community members struggle with failing buildings from the 1960’s and earlier, and outdated furniture and equipment that was, for the most part, bought used from other school districts…Since FY2002, the Belpre Community has lost over $1 million of local tax dollars to charter schools. We could have put that money to much better use right here in Belpre,” said Dunn.
Previous EfficientGov News: