Democrat Rich Cordray and Republican Mike DeWine differ on how they would handle charter schools if elected governor.
Cordray rails against charter schools. DeWine supports them. However, in the wake of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow online school closing this year, both candidates have proposals to increase charter school oversight.
Third-party candidates Constance Gadell-Newton of the Green Party and Travis Irvine of the Libertarian Party of Ohio both call for increased oversight as well, though Irvine also calls for a property tax credit for parents who send their children to private schools or home school.
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Cordray proposes banning for-profits from operating charters. Meanwhile, DeWine wants online schools like ECOT to demonstrate student achievement before getting any money.
Ron Adler, head of the charter school trade group Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, isn’t a fan of either idea.
Adler said charter schools are all non-profit public schools with appointed school boards. Sometimes those boards hire for-profit management companies to run the day-to-day operations of a school, he said, the same way they pay private companies for textbooks, or food services or parking lot paving. Those for-profit school operators often perform better than public districts, he said.
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“It’s basically looking for a problem that currently doesn’t exist,” he said of Cordray’s plan.
As for DeWine’s idea to withhold money from electronic schools until they prove themselves, Adler said, “It sounds pretty discriminatory. How can you create a funding structure for one set of public schools and ignore…every other public school in the state?”
ECOT’s closing has hovered over several statewide races this year, as Democrats accuse the Republicans who run state government of lax oversight leading up to the school’s shutdown. The scandal erupted when it was discovered that the school received full funding for students the school couldn’t prove logged on. The closing came after the school was ordered to repay $80 million.
Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy for the charter school think tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said he sees merit in DeWine’s proposal to track whether students at electronic schools are logging on and learning, but he said any tracking system needs to be fair.
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“If we funded all schools based solely on competency and how much students learn, based on state test scores, there’s a lot of schools that would only get a fraction of what they get now,” he said.
Stephen Dyer, education policy fellow at the left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, said removing profit motives from charter schools “is probably an idea whose time has come.”
Dyer said ECOT shows for-profit companies focus on profit margins and market share at the expense of children. “The only way you can make money (in education) is by cutting corners,” he said.