When Governor Kasich rolled out his original budget proposal, he culminated a months-long effort of trying to convince the citizens of Ohio that major reforms were needed for K-12 Education.  Senate Bill 5, while not a significant part of the original budget bill was a major player in this education reform.  So assured was the Governor about the necessity of these changes, the headline in his Reforms Book reads:


Needed?  I confess that until Senate Bill 5 was rolled out in February, I never realized how far the state of education in Ohio had fallen.  I initially thought that charter schools must be one of the reasons for the decline since I knew that they had increased in number over the last five years, but I quickly learned from the Ohio GOP that charters were soon to be part of the solution for saving our children.  Ride along with me on this informative journey about K-12 education in the Buckeye State as seen through the words of our state leaders.

The Ohio Department of Education posts school district data on their website as part of a “report card” that includes all student assessment measures.  In brief, these scores are summarized into a composite score for each district called a Performance Index (PI) Score.  This score is so important to identify the performance of schools and districts that it is specifically included by name twenty-one separate times in the Senate-approved budget bill to be used as a measure of school, district, and even teacher effectiveness.  Those statewide scores are so important and apparently illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that our schools are in bad shape that I have included them in this post alternating with statements from our leadership.

This, then, is the story of the downward spiral of K-12 education in Ohio.


The reforms we will implement are aligned to what successful schools require. These reforms will allow great teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards to ensure student results. The Governor‘s reform agenda will move Ohio from being a manager of the educational status quo to becoming a model that other states will emulate. — John Kasich


We must hold Ohio’s entire education system accountable to ensure that all of our students are achieving at high levels. We need to set higher standards so our children can compete. — John Kasich


You know, you have some counties were you have six school districts. You don’t need six superintendents. How many principals? How many administrators? How many curriculum coordinators? We need to operate the schools more like a business. — John Kasich


The spine of this bill is that we need to turn away from the failing school model and look at true needs. — Representative Matt Huffman


Tradition is one of our greatest challenges.  The things we think are fundamental to education really aren’t. We believe in evaluating our schools and rewarding decisions that are driven by student results. — Robert Sommers, director of the Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education


We can no longer trap Ohio‘s children in chronically failing schools. — John Kasich


The message to teachers (is), we’re not slapping something together. We want you to participate, we are open to what will work. — John Kasich


The one thing we know about these schools is they’re failing children in a big way in the current structure. — Robert Sommers


Nothing should stand in our way of making Ohio an ability to lead in this country and be able to compete in the world. And we better commit ourselves to this and get this fixed. — John Kasich


What we face is this notion that the only way we can get better results is spend more money or hire more people. In the last decade, we’ve spent more money but have not gotten any better result. — Robert Sommers

To summarize the results for the past decade, a handy-dandy graph:

I know — you’re thinking it’s upside down or backward, right?  After everything I’ve heard from my own state Governor about failing Ohio schools and the NEEDED REFORMS we will be implementing to turn this state around, I expected declining student achievement.  And yet, as this graph shows, school districts in Ohio have been steadily improving over the past decade.  I get really concerned when John Kasich and Bob Sommers think that this represents failing children, failing schools, a lack of results, and a need to get this fixed, including soliciting feedback from teachers.  Here’s an idea — how about gaining an understanding of the reality of the situation before freaking out after watching some faux-school-reformer’s superhero flick that you sent Jai Chabria to pick up at the Redbox?  When you throw around the phrase “needed reforms,” how about being able to intelligently articulate your position with the available data to truly understand the difference between a tweak and an overhaul?

Regrouping . . . so the graph may be a bit misleading — I removed the data over that decade for Ohio’s charter schools.  As you may have heard, charter schools are fairly popular with the Governor’s crowd and recent legislation promotes the expansion of charters statewide.  The graph below shows two lines — the blue line from above with only public districts, and a new red line that displays statewide data that includes the charters.

It’s quite an amazing effect that those charters have on the achievement test results of Ohio’s students, isn’t it?  But I’m still left wondering where the major need for education reform can be found?  If anything, this data argues for the elimination of charter schools so those children can be returned to the public school districts where the education is of a much higher quality (again, according to the Performance Index Scores that the Ohio GOP has clearly identified as the primary measure for judging school and school district performance).  For reference purposes, the charter school boom in Ohio truly began in 2004-2005.  I suppose if they just keep replacing the existing public schools with charters then the results will eventually begin to decline.

That will be just in time for our next Governor to implement a K-12 Education Reform package, but way too late for those students being sold to the highest contributor.

Governor Kasich, selling yourself for personal gain is despicable enough, but the selling of others truly exposes your amoral character.


  • Jen

    Kasich has never been down with the facts.  Take the video of him in pre-campaign mode a couple of years ago when he said something to the effect that the schools in his hometown of Westerville were failing miserably and a vast majority of first graders couldn’t read.  Westerville CSD is rated excellent with distinction.

    I politely contacted his campaign about it last fall and requested his sources but, of course, received no answer.

  • Anastasjoy

    Amen to this:
    “Governor Kasich, selling yourself for personal gain is despicable enough, but the selling of others truly exposes your amoral character.”
    It’s even more despicable and amoral when the “others” he’s selling off are our kids and along with them the state’s future. 
    He is truly an evil man.

  • Anonymous

    The failure of Ohio is in the legislature – not in the schools.  The rest of the world is catching up to us; we are not falling behind them.  As long as business is going to ship jobs to China, India and Mexico, those countries are going to continue to make gains on us while we continue to appear to fall behind.  It is not that we are not producing highly qualified workers in this country, it is that our leaders are promoting business that reduces the opportunity for those workers to make a comfortable living. Back to my inaugural statement, the schools and the educators are not the ones failing Ohio; the politicians are the ones failing us.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this very useful graphic.  I’ve added it over at ohio15th.blogspot.com to spread the word about how Ohio’s charter schools are dismal failures.  Even though they continue to get more money, charters still cannot reach the performance levels of public schools.  Public schools produce better results because they have higher standards, certified & licensed  teachers, IEP’s for students with special needs, certified principals, textbooks and materials that are proven educational resources, and above all, professional educators concerned with progress not profit.  If you look at the report cards for various charter schools, you’ll notice the horrible proficiency results in math and science.  These charter school students are not being prepared for living and working in the 21st century.

  • gmild

    Be careful to note that the 2nd graph combines charters AND districts.  A graph of just charter schools would max out at an average PI score of 75.6 in 09-10 and wouldn’t even show up on the chart.

  • Buckeyeboss

    Did you control for the scores of charter schools Vs. the school districts they are in?  Most charter schools are in urban areas, so would likely be below the average….

  • gmild

    The proposed legislation does not adjust for geography, so I went with their methodology of ranking all schools/districts equally.  You’re not suggesting they erred in their logic, are you?

  • Anonymous

    They may be in urban areas but as I understand it, for the most part they get to pick and choose whom to enroll.  If so, one would think that they were selecting those students who are the strongest (or are able to pay the most).  Public schools, on the other hand, must try to educate regardless of ability, economic status or religious (and, for the most part political) preference.

  • gmild

    Good lord, did you just say “people like you?”  Please elaborate on what you mean when you say “people like you.”  I’m very curious.  
    Do you mean people who are able to read and dissect information from multiple sources of information?  
    Or do you mean people who can read an article and actually understand the author’s premise?  
    Or do you mean the people who read this article and understood that the reference to charter schools was a very small part that was in no way crucial to the central argument?  
    Or do you simply mean people who can type quickly with a minute amount of typos or spelling errors?
    Please expand on your stereotypical statement so that we may know more about people like you.

  • dlw

    I totally agree that the graph would be much more useful if it only dealt with public schools in the areas that are allowed to have community schools. It’s not useful to me to know that charters rank lower than the average public school. Such a comparison is always going to come out as pro-public school and anti-charter school.

    Believe me, I am no fan of charters. But I’m also not a fan of apples and oranges statistics that are most useful for the opposition. [And this is not directed at you personally, Greg, but I keep seeing apples/oranges comparisons in terms of community schools in the Plunderbund articles… it’s gotten to the point that even though I love this site, I try to just skim the education articles so that I don’t get all annoyed and start typing equally annoying comments.]

    What would be useful is knowing how charters are doing compared to the public districts that are serving the same areas (no need for a city by city breakdown… but charters are in, what, the Big 8???… so charters versus the public schools in those areas). Of course charters don’t do as well as UA, so why even compare the two?

    And something else that is rarely to never mentioned here: oftentimes the kids in charters are the kids who didn’t make it (either behaviorally or academically) in their neighborhood public school. So having a charter in the neighborhood can serve to increase a schools ratings (which is why some districts actually like their local charters!). Some of them are also drop out recovery schools. Not to say that those are “succeeding”… but it’s hardly fair to include them in the overall statistics on charter schools.

  • gmild

    I’m glad you’re getting frustrated, but I want to try and clarify why that is on many levels intentional.  For sake of argument in my upcoming response, I’m going to use the terms charter and public to describe the institutions (I know that YOU know what I mean, but I’m clarifying for those just joining our party).

    The legislation surrounding charters and public districts is grossly inconsistent, especially the crap we’re seeing from this assembly.  The legislators want to have their cake and eat it, too, so to speak.  New reforms are intended to hold public schools and teachers to even tighter measures while charters are getting even more breaks with regard to expansion and funding.  If I was able to access student-level data for all of the schools and make the most accurate comparisons possible, I would argue that those comparisons would also be skewed as the charters are given more leeway in outcomes.  While publics are held to tight School Improvement reforms by the state, many charters remain in School Improvement status well beyond what is possible for publics (see ECOT post on PB).

    And even when we do post anything that tries to provide any form of apples to apples comparison (ECOT – http://www.plunderbund.com/2011/05/01/mr-governor-shut-this-school-district-down/, by county, please look at the full post on my FB page – http://www.plunderbund.com/2011/03/22/charter-school-students-cost-ohio-taxpayers-2-5-times-more/) a critic jumps on the disadvantaged student bandwagon.  That argument doesn’t hold up.  While it is true that many charter school students come from disadvantaged homes, you accurately pointed out that the students in the corresponding public schools often live in the same low economic environment.  And so, when comparing test results (not what I choose, mind you), the public school students outperform their local charter school peers, particularly shown through deplorable graduation rates.  And it is neither all true nor false, but instead unverifiable, that students attend charters because they are failing in the publics.  Students attend charters for a myriad of reasons, but student-level academic data is not publicly available (nor do I think it should be), so the ability to accurately compare a single child’s performance in one or the other simply does not exist today.  We could probably trade anecdotal stories about students entering charters and students returning to publics until the cows come home, but all we would have is a book of short stories (hmm…)

    Is this true for all charters?  Of course not, just as it’s not true that all urban schools are failing, either.

    By biggest beef with the process is the inequity.  I’m sick of people saying charters start out handicapped so need more flexibility and leeway.  Yet when they fail to produce results, they are not held accountable.  Why aren’t the public schools were afforded the same opportunities to take the risks with the same minimal level of scrutiny?  And the local school district is responsible for the transportation of the children, not the charter school, not in any way.  The parent enrolls the child, the public district has to get them there (yes, within proximity).  This is another expense that is placed on the back of the district.  Franklin County alone has 49 charter schools (at last report).  I can’t confirm the actual number in Columbus, so let’s approximate that 40 are in the city.  That would make the community schools the 6th largest school district in the state.  So the Columbus transportation department effectively manages this AND the largest district in the state.  This is merely one of those “small” pieces that the local district does to accommodate kids in charter schools.

    I lied.  My biggest beef is the money.  I get incensed when I hear about the underfunded charters only to see the charter operators raking in millions of dollars per year.  Can you imagine a scenario where any district superintendent was granted a $1 million annual contract?  We must remember that it is ALL public money that is used.  

    And as for the “limited” references to state funding?  Well, Kasich is specifically talking about the STATE budget, not local or federal dollars that are out of his control.  So when he and the legislature have been throwing around numbers about school funding, then that is the apples to apples comparison.  Whether you and I vote for levies in our local district is, in my opinion, none of his business.  And so, when they talk about increasing funding for charters and the voucher program (only for reference of school funding; please let’s not discuss our philosophical views on this), I want to try and remind everyone that the money is all coming out of the same state pool of education funding, whether you are the wealthiest district or the most impoverished, whether you have charter schools or not, whether you voted for bonds and levies just last year or not.  An increase in funding for charters is a decrease in funding for publics.

    dlw–at least give me a cursory response so I’ll know you’ve read this.  If not, I’ll just copy and paste it as a full post.  Not that you’ll read it then . . . 

  • dlw

    I would love to see you copy and paste your response as a full post. Because this “comment” of yours is head and shoulders above some of your “full posts”. I know this is not the first time that I’ve “picked on” one of your posts. The ironic thing is that it’s not because I disagree with you (mostly…). I don’t support charters and never have. And my biggest gripe about them is that in allowing charters, we have TWO different public school systems that we are funding with state money… and one of those systems is making a very few people very rich (or at least richer) while seriously lowering accountability… and not teaching the kids!!!

    I get frustrated with the apples to oranges arguments because I fear that people will read that here… then actually educate themselves a bit or somehow get a bit educated… enough to realize the comparison here is faulty… and will then assume the entire argument/position is therefore false. And yes, I get riling people up for the sake of riling them up (well, not just for the sake of it, but in order to actually get them paying attention and talking about the issues and maybe even getting off the couch and, gasp, voting). But it seems to me that in the end, The Cause is better off with proper comparisons.

    That means the drop out recoveries can’t be included… or if they are (because as I recall from the last time I looked at the ODE data it can difficult to separate them out), an asterisk is needed.

    The charters you talk about being allowed to be open longer are, for the most part, drop out recovery schools. Those particular rules apply to all drop out recoveries, whether they’re charters or publics. Disagreeing with that piece is fine, but it’s not fair to put that solely on charters.

    “I want to try and remind everyone that the money is all coming out of
    the same state pool of education funding, whether you are the wealthiest
    district or the most impoverished, whether you have charter schools or
    not, whether you voted for bonds and levies just last year or not.  An
    increase in funding for charters is a decrease in funding for publics.”

    Exactly!!! Absolutely totally exactly. And that’s the first time I remember seeing you just say that flat out.

    And since you brought up transportation: So with transportation money to publics getting cut in the budget, are publics still supposed to transport the charter kids pretty much for free? I admit I skimmed the transpo section of the bill and so didn’t see if there was any mention of a change in duty to these kids in light of the cuts to transpo money…

    A cursory response. As if I could ever be that short-winded! 😉

  • And then there’s this…..


    Yeah, after the Kasuck administration tried to pass themselves off as the savior of Ohio’s schools by adding two friggin’ calamity days (upon the advice of a couple of 10 year olds) the little neopigs in the legislature are now trying to cut the entire school year.

    They heard some statements before the committee, but not from teachers groups about how useful such a move might be, or from other heads of state about how well this works in other countries. Oh HELL no. The committee wasted tax dollars hearing statements from boating associations and campground owners about how it would be a boost to their bottom lines.

    There’s a whole lot more I’d like to write about this, but I must get back to banging my head against the wall!

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