The Olentangy Local School District is located in Delaware County, north of Columbus, and is in the top ten in the state in student enrollment with over 17,000 students.  The district has received a rating of either Excellent (“A”) or Excellent with Distinction (“A+”) since 2005 from the Ohio Department of Education.  Despite their top rating, the district has continually lost students to charter schools (see our post explaining why this is allowed to occur).

This year, with the new state report card, Olentangy once again received high marks with 6 A’s and 3 B’s.  Using a traditional 4-point grading scale, this would equate to a 3.667 grade-point average.  Olentangy also happens to rank as one of the wealthier districts in the state of Ohio and therefore receives a considerably lower amount of state funding per pupil than the vast majority of school districts (5th lowest out of 614 school districts in FY13; $441.43 per pupil in Olentangy vs. a state average of $3,599.82).

In FY13, Olentangy’s funding was based on a total resident student population of 17,572 for which Olentangy received $7,756,769.13 in state funding, or the aforementioned $441.43 per pupil.  Also in FY13, Olentangy was forced by the state to transfer a total of $1,157,954.57 to 18 different charter schools to pay for the 114.38 students (decimal occurs due to when student transferred) who left the high-performing school district to enroll in these charter school options (an average of $10,123.75 per pupil).  None of these charter schools are located within the boundaries of Olentangy, and none are even located in Delaware County.

In the chart below, you can see the list of charter schools where Olentangy students attended along with the total amount of funding that was transferred from Olentangy to the school and the per pupil amount.


Remember, Olentangy initially received only $441.43 for each of those students and are now losing (by design in state law), an average of approximately $10,000 per pupil for those very same students.  That means that had these students stayed in Olentangy, the district would have a mere 4.4% of the amount of state funds that the charters are receiving to educate the exact same children.  These figures also mean that the exit of only 0.65% of the total number of students living in the district resulted in the transfer of 14.9% of the total state funding to charter schools.


We’ve often posted about the inequities that exist in the funding of charter schools in Ohio and we’ve also posted about the low performance of charters statewide, but something that is much harder to do is to get down to the very specific level of comparing a school district’s performance with that of the charters that are taking students away from the district.  That information exists in a variety of different data sets on the Ohio Department of Education website and the point of this case study is to show that micro-level comparison for a high-performing district.

The chart below shows the new report card grades for the Olentangy Local School District and the charter schools that are enrolling Olentangy students.  The far right column shows the calculated “GPA” for Olentangy as compared to each of the charter schools (calculated on a traditional 4-point scale where an A=4.0, B=3.0, etc.).  Click on the image to view it in a new browser window for readability.


It should be no surprise that the charter schools’ grades are considerably below the grades of the high-performing Olentangy Schools.  Charter schools have been shown to continually perform below average across the state of Ohio for years.

Finally, in a chart that many people have asked for in the past, and that we’ve created from all of the different data sources, we compare the “GPA” of all of the schools with the amount of state funding that the Olentangy Local School District is losing for each student compared to the amount the district originally received from the state.


When all of this data is combined in a single chart, it’s easy to see that an inverse relationship exists between the funding that this high-performing district is receiving compared to the low-performing charter schools for the exact same children.

Before we direct you to all of the resources so that you can look at your own high-performing district, there are a few final important pieces of information to share.

First, you probably noticed that the Oakstone Community School receives an astounding amount of per pupil funding.  Oakstone is a specialized school that is known primarily for its focus on children with autism.  As such, these students qualify for “Category 6” funding from the state and receive a weighted funding amount of 4.7342 times the base per pupil funding amount.  You can read more about weighted funding amounts for students with disabilities on the ODE website here.

On the second chart above, you might have noticed something strange about the two Dropout Recovery Schools that don’t have grades (Dropout Recovery Schools got their own separate report cards this year).  Both are listed as serving grades K-12, which would mean that they are teaching and testing children in the earlier grades, but are not reporting those results.  This appears to be both true and would seem to conflict with state law.  On the ODE website you’ll find the following statement:  “Under Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3314.36, a community school that serves a majority of its students through a dropout prevention and recovery program…”  If you actually look at 3314.36, you’ll also find this statement: “The program serves only students not younger than sixteen years of age and not older than twenty-one years of age.”  The key word is “program”, not “school”, so these schools serve a majority of their students in a dropout recovery program while also apparently serving children in the younger grades.  Since they they qualify for the Dropout Recovery School waiver, they are able to “hide” the performance of the school as it pertains to the performance of students in the younger grades.  A look at the two schools’ enrollment data reveals that last year Goal Digital Academy had 62 children in grades 6-8 and Treca Digital Academy had 617 children in grades 1-8.  Students in grades 3-8 took the Ohio Achievement Assessments, but these schools do not have a report card displaying the results (hint: you can find the less than stellar results through the Advanced Reports option on the report card page).

And finally, all of the data we used to create this case study is available to the public through the Ohio Department of Education website.  Sadly, it is also woefully inconsistent.  The reports have various inconsistencies that, while often minor, make it a pain to work with.  For example, one report lists the Metro School as a charter school that took students and funding from Olentangy while another report listed it (properly) as a State of Ohio public STEM school and listed the transferred funds in a different category.  As another example, one report lists the number of charter school students from Olentangy as 19.38 while another lists the count as 19.63.  It turns out neither is truly accurate since both counts improperly included the 5 Olentangy students who attended the Metro School.  In short, we did the best we could with the numbers as they are reported by the Ohio Department of Education.


If you wish to access all of the various reports (original sources) to craft a case study of your own district, here are the links you’ll need:

  • Bridge Report FY2013 spreadsheet (June #2) – This downloadable Excel file contains final 2013 enrollment and funding figures for every school district in Ohio in one place.
  • Bridge Documentation (FY2013) – This website allows you to select a single school district to see the specific funding amounts for that district along with a complete list of every charter school that enrolled students from that district and the funding amounts transferred to each respective charter (select the “Community School Deduction Summary” checkbox).  You can also identify when students received additional funding due to their disability status through this data set.
  • Downloadable 2013 Report Cards by District – Download all of the report card data (including nine graded categories) for every school district in Ohio in an Excel spreadsheet from the ODE report card site.
  • Downloadable 2013 Report Cards by Charter School – Download all of the report card data (including nine graded categories) for every charter school (except dropout recovery schools) in Ohio in an Excel spreadsheet from the ODE report card site.
  • List of Dropout Recovery Schools – Use this site to identify Dropout Recovery Schools that are exempt from the 2013 Report Card (you’ll need this when you get frustrated because you can’t find them listed in the downloadable charter school spreadsheet).


Have fun and good luck!


  • Think.

    I wonder how long it will take the GOP-controlled legislature to take this data off of the ODE website…

  • missskeptic

    A fascinating way to transfer millions of taxpayer funds to private charter school owners, who in turn donate huge sums of campaign funds to the pols who support and encourage the use of these inferior schools. And it’s all legal.

  • rrenaud

    The public schools must also receive money from the towns/municipalities, not just the state, right? Why is that money not reported?

  • anastasjoy

    Glad to see my favorite blogger back on board with these valuable posts on the travesty that passes for education funding and oversight in Ohio.

  • angrytaxpayer

    I graduated from Olentangy, and now my daughter is a middle school student there. This is a wealthy district. I am a preschool teacher, and far from wealthy, but I make sacrifices to be in this district because of the educational opportunities. I have long lamented the problems with these type of alternative schools. This is an infuriating report, and I thank you for the time and research. Shame on the ODE, and the con artists that run these places.

  • gregmild
  • Red Rover

    Can we get a campaign promise from Ed Fitzgerald to crack down on these crooks? I would like to see charters prevented from getting any public funds, but at the very least they should not be allowed to get more than the districts would have received for those same students.

  • albertinamel

    I think this is a bit alarmist. If it costs $10k to educate a child, through a combination of state and local taxes, then that money ought to follow the child. In a poor district, that might mean over $9k is from the state and only $1k is from local sources, and in a wealthy district the reverse may be true. That’s not surprising. If the charter schools can’t bring their scores up and the data is published along with all school district data (which it is bc charter schools are actually PUBLIC, as many people, including missskeptic, seem to forget), then they will eventually lose students and be forced to shut down.

  • albertinamel

    That local money is the difference between the $441.43 and the $10,123.75 in the third paragraph. The money simply follows the child. The school district isn’t actually losing money it raised by itself, unless you consider scenarios like a wealthy parent, who was a big PTA donor, now donating to a different school’s PTA bc his child switched schools, but that’s a bit of a stretch and not germane to the discussion of public funds.

  • albertinamel

    No, because charter schools are public schools. They are held accountable to the state and, in the end, fall under the auspices of the State Dept of Education. You are confusing them with private schools.

  • Red Rover

    Charter schools are businesses, and they’re held to different standards than public schools. There’s a huge difference. Even ones that are nominally “non-profit” probably are making money for somebody.

  • pb_dirtgirl

    Charters are exempt from some 270 legal and regulatory requirements with which traditional schools must comply.

  • Dianna Gregory Narotski

    Some of that total amount is fixed costs, like administration and heating the buildings. The district’s costs don’t go down by $10k when a student leaves a district. The millions leaving the district is more akin to a married couple making $50k combined, divorcing and each making $25k, being expected to keep the same standard of living for their 3 kids. It just doesn’t work that way. When voters pass property tax levies, they are voting for a certain amount of money to go to their local public schools, to support the staff and programs they have there. They aren’t voting for their money to go to ECOT, which is essentially what is happening here.

  • unknown

    Doesn’t this point out that you can have high performance without dumping a bunch of money into the school system? It would appear that the more money you give to a school (per pupil) the lower the performance.

    Assuming the numbers are correct. You did point out that the data is unreliable in the last paragraph. Not exactly a confidence builder in the findings.

  • OFKer

    If growth is our biggest issue, requiring us to build new schools which in turn drives up our debt and overall operating costs, then aren’t charter schools helping us with this problem?

  • Barb Nied

    They are not exempt from federal laws! Especially for children with disabilities, in fact federal law takes presidents.

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