In the final part of IO’s coverage of last week’s hearing on school funding in the Ohio House, I want to recount one of the most problematic, yet also encouraging portions: charter schools. You may read Part 1 and Part 2 by following the links.
While the panel of Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution, Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute, Students First (Michelle Rhee’s group) and Marguerite Roza of the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, which provided the blueprint for the Cleveland Plan, all made encouraging statements about the need for charter and traditional public school accountability to be the same, there remain deeply troubling issues.
At the end of the day, there was a lot of talk about children in charter schools needing more revenue. But there was zero talk of children in traditional public schools needing more revenue. If anything, there were suggestions that students in traditional public schools should do fine with what they have and could even do with less.
If more state revenue will help charter school kids, why won’t it help my two children, or your children, who do not go to charter schools? If money really doesn’t help improve achievement, why do charter schools need more money, especially when they were sold as being able to do the job better and cheaper? Only 23 of the 300+ charters in this state do better than the average school district on the Performance Index Score. As for being cheaper, a recent Ohio Department of Education analysis shows that brick-and-mortar charters in fact spend $54 more per pupil than traditional public schools overall.
My bottom line on Wednesday’s hearing was this: There are areas of potential agreement on items that will really help kids. Things like early childhood education, wraparound services, and accounting for things in the formula like poverty, which we know impacts student success, are all ideas I think everyone agrees will help.
However, this dogmatic adherence to the idea that the biggest impediment to good test scores is bad teachers, not the tests themselves whose results are so determined by demographics is a non-starter. Or that money should follow the kid, even if it leaves other kids behind – or that charters need more money, but public schools can do with less, leaves me in a weird place. I’m excited about the areas of agreement. But I fear the areas of concern are so great they will swamp any of the positive work.
Let’s hope I’m wrong.