Charter schools’ nine lives

Journal Gazette - February 6, 2013

Karen Francisco of the Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne) draws on the Policy Matters Ohio report “Avoiding Accountability: How charter operators evade Ohio’s automatic closure law” in this aptly titled piece about charter school accountability. Quoting the report at some length, the article states:

“Since the charter-closure law went into effect in 2008, 20 schools across the state have met closure criteria, and all are currently listed as closed by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE),” according to the new report. “But an investigation of the schools by Policy Matters revealed that eight schools – and the management companies that run them – have found ways to skirt the closure law and remain open, severely undermining the law’s effectiveness and highlighting the lax accountability that prevails in Ohio’s charter sector. For-profit managers – the Leona Group, Mosaica Education and White Hat Management – operate six of the reopened schools.”

The article points out that Fort Wayne has a particular interest in Leona Group, which is headed by former Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Bill Coats and runs the city’s struggling Timothy L. Johnson Academy.  Explaining the loophole that allows charter management companies to avoid automatic closure, Francisco further quotes the Policy Matters Ohio report:

“While Ohio law sets up charter school boards as the entity to be held legally responsible for a school’s academic and financial performance, it does not do the same for management companies, many of them for-profit, that are contracted by schools to manage their daily operations. These companies are often in charge of making major decisions for a school, including hiring and firing teachers, assessing academic performance, contracting with vendors, budgeting, developing curriculum, and providing basic classroom materials. Yet the closure law places no penalty on (charter management organizations) when their schools meet academic closure criteria. This omission creates a loophole for managers to keep closed schools open and continue to receive public funds for failing schools.”

Charter school supporters have long heralded accountability as a defining feature, so, Francisco writes, “as Ball State University prepares to consider renewal of many of its struggling Indiana charter schools, including the Johnson Academy, it should be interesting to watch how the CMOs affected respond if the university declines to renew their charters.”

Charter schools’ nine lives

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