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REPORT: Ohio Charter Schools Closing at Alarming Rate, Students Left in Lurch

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The charter school movement has been labeled a success by those who support the pro-corporate education “reform” agenda, but for students in Columbus, OH, it has been plagued by failure.  In 2013 alone, Ohio’s capital city saw 17 charter schools close, of which nine opened this past fall and lasted only a few months.  Now, the city has 250 students looking for new schools.  The cost to taxpayers for those nine schools to be open a few months? $1.6 million.

A lack of standards concerning who can open a charter school has led to an oversaturated market and a closures epidemic, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

A Dispatch analysis of state data found that 29 percent of Ohio’s charter schools have shut, dating to 1997 when the publicly funded but often privately run schools became legal in Ohio. Nearly 400 currently are operating, about 75 of them in Columbus.

It took 15 years for Ohio’s list of closed charters to reach 134; then that number grew by almost 13 percent last year from charters closing in Columbus alone.

Before 2013, only three had closed within half a year of opening, and the median life of a charter was more than four years.”

Many of these failed charter schools were opened by people who had previous legal problems while running charter schools in other states.  Some were rushed. Facilities were found to be inappropriate for an educational facility.  Some were found to have unsanitary conditions.  Public schools are vilified by charter supporters for going unchecked, but Ohio charter schools do not appear to be leading an oversight revolution. John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, told the Columbus Dispatch, “The way it works right now is, if a school has a sponsor and they sign a contract, that school can open. We don’t have any approval or denial power.”

Interestingly, the biggest critics of these failed schools are charter school supporters.  Andrew Boy, who runs the two Columbus Collegiate Academy schools, touched on this, saying, “Charter-school failures erode the public’s confidence in our movement as a whole. Like it or not, all public, independently operated charter schools are grouped together.”

But the horror stories are hard to deny:

Low pay and long hours for teachers, bribing kids with candy and free meals to show up during “count week”, mold-filled classrooms, no curriculum, management changing grades and test scores, and large men removing low-performing students during testing weeks .   These schools are the worst of the worst.

When charter schools fail it has a ripple effect across the community.  Public schools and other charter schools must pick up the slack by accepting new students mid-year and taxpayers are ultimately left with the tab.  William L. Phillis, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, puts it plainly: “A school goes belly up, and the public is out the money, and the kids’ educational programming has been harmed.”


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