It is generally understood in Ohio that charter schools are only popping up in the lowest-performing districts in the state.  The Ohio Department of Education explains this very simply on its website as follows:

According to Ohio laws, sponsors may consider [challenged districts] as potential sites for Community Schools. Newly created new start-up community schools may be started in challenged districts only and the list represents all districts meeting that definition for the 2012-2013 school year.

This is spelled out in legalese in section 3314.02 of the Ohio Revised Code, which is lengthy, but which essentially states a few important details about starting and operating charter schools in Ohio:

  • Any person or group of individuals may the establishment of a new start-up school to be located in a challenged school district.
  • Existing charter schools in districts that once met the legal requirements are “grandfathered” in and may continue operating (as long as they meet other legal requirements to remain open).
  • “Challenged school district” can be described as one of the large urban school districts, a district that has been in “academic emergency” or “academic watch” for multiple recent years, a district that receives grades of “D” or “F” for their performance index or value-added grades under the new report card for multiple years, or a district ranking in the lowest 5% of school districts statewide in performance index score.

As a result of these rules, most people assume (generally correctly) that charter schools are only located in areas with low-scoring schools.  That first assumption leads to a second assumption — that charter school students are only pulled from those same low-scoring schools and/or districts.  That second assumption is very, very wrong.

While a charter school is limited as to where it may be located geographically, state law permits that school to open enrollment to students from outside of that area — to students in adjacent districts and even to students from across the state (think e-schools).  This choice isn’t made by the legislature, the districts, nor the Ohio Department of Education, but is left up to the discretion of the charter school operator!

Two sections of Ohio Revised Code detail this option for charter schools – sections 3314.03 & 3314.06.

The relevant parts from 3314.03:

(A) Each contract entered into between a sponsor and the governing authority of a community school shall specify the following:

(19) A provision requiring the governing authority to adopt a policy regarding the admission of students who reside outside the district in which the school is located. That policy shall comply with the admissions procedures specified in sections 3314.06 and 3314.061 of the Revised Code and, at the sole discretion of the authority, shall do one of the following:

(a) Prohibit the enrollment of students who reside outside the district in which the school is located;

(b) Permit the enrollment of students who reside in districts adjacent to the district in which the school is located;

(c) Permit the enrollment of students who reside in any other district in the state.

From 3314.06:

The governing authority of each community school established under this chapter shall adopt admission procedures that specify the following:

(C) Whether enrollment is limited to students who reside in the district in which the school is located or is open to residents of other districts, as provided in the policy adopted pursuant to the contract.

As a result of this loophole in state law that allows charter school operators to determine their own enrollment boundaries, 610 out of the 614 school districts in Ohio directly lost students and state funding to one or more charter schools last year.  That means that while charters are theoretically supposed to be providing an educational option to those students in the state’s lowest scoring schools, they are actually pulling children and resources from over 99% of Ohio’s school districts, including the highest-graded districts from across the state.

While we let that information sink in, we’re working on a follow-up post where we will publish the full list of Ohio school districts in the state along with the specific number of students they lost to charter schools.  Alongside those statistics, we’ll also publish the astonishing state funding amounts that those districts lost to charters because of this legal loophole.  In 580 of those 610 school districts that lost students to charters (95%), the charter school received a higher rate of state funding per student than the student’s home district!

  • westparkguy

    You should also add to your chart how those Charter Schools rate in Ohio. Aren’t the e-schools doing horrible in graduation rates?

  • gregmild

    We’ve done that in other posts. Since students from districts enroll in multiple charter schools, tracking the comparative performance of the district to the charters gets to be a large mess. The chart we just posted on funding, with the knowledge that charters statewide perform at a low level overall, speaks volumes about how much the state legislature favors charter schools and is turning a blind eye to their failure as a method of education reform.

  • Katietoo

    Can’t thank you enough for tackling this issue. Students and teachers throughout Ohio (and other states as well) are suffering because of these and other anti-public education laws. We must educate people!

  • Think.

    That’s right. The state legislature favors charter schools and turns a blind eye to their failure, because its education “reform” initiatives have NOTHING to do with “reform.” Follow the money…

  • Gene

    This issue of charter schools and religious schools is not an issue. The religious church’s like the Catholic Church believe it is their duty and right to educate. and the Conservative agenda whom so many like to brag of being and practicing is a Catholic Fascist agenda. So any thing to destroy the public schools like taking money from the Federal and State funds to support the charter and religious schools takes the burden of demanding and forcing families who want their children in these schools to feel they can afford these supposedly superior private schools which they believe provides a superior education.
    Why should a private or religious school take in the poorer performing students from the poorer sections of a community . They don’t want to provide the quality and dedicated teachers it takes to put up with the discipline, behavior , social and moral problems as well as the money it would require to get teachers who are too smart to teach in such schools and with such problems unless they were dedicated and wanted to be in the teaching profession.. no matter what the salary.
    So the charter schools are in it to make money and have as few problems as possible and with superior students , it requires less effort, discipline and resources to teach these types of students because they basically teach themselves and all the teacher has to do is to be a guide to their learning process and procedures.
    John Kasich is a Catholic and he follows the Catholic Fascist agenda of smaller government, less taxes for business , less regulations, eliminate , or limit union membership and power, eliminate or dissolve or reduce any social programs which may help the public such as food stamps and welfare ,make smaller government by eliminating or forcing the communities to cut back on employees or services and on and on and on and on.
    Mr. Kasich is no friend to Ohio or its people. He’s in it for his own personal satisfaction and glory. He is helping along the Catholic Fascist agenda by promoting charter and religious schools. And G.W. Bush whom the Catholic Church wanted for President allowed Federal money into the charter and public schools and they use public facilities for their students without having to come up with the money, supplies and facilities to provide them themselves.
    It’s a sweet , sweet very, very sweet racket.
    Vote for John Kasich again so we can see what else he wants to do in his next term to screw Ohio and its people like saving money by holding it back from our cities, schools, teachers, firemen , policemen, medical, maintenance , and all other public workers.
    But of course , all these people make too much money because those multi- millionaire catholic -Fascist propagandists on Fox Broadcasting have told us so and we believe their B.S. and resent our fellowman from having a decent living in a society and country that is slowly having EVERYTHING taken from us ALL.
    We won’t laugh long.
    Vote for this traitorious Conservative again who pretends to be a Republican so he can become governor of Ohio and screw its people AGAIN. Make him happy so he and his fellow traitorious Conservative friends on Fox will be so happy and he can grovel when he calls Shawn Hannity licking his slimy feet for some media time to tell Shawn how well he’s doing at getting the conservative agenda accomplished.

  • Gene

    +John Kasich is a slimy politican. who wants a second term apparently because it seems easier than to try to get the media attention and acceptance he would need to be President. A poll showed him at one per cent.
    Too many others names are being and have been promoted. for President.
    Vote for John Kasich again so he can hold back more money from the public and their needs and see how much he can squeeze out of Ohio and what he plans to do with it.

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