Two of America’s most famous financial phrases—”show me the money” and “follow the money”—are central to the launch Tuesday of a new website titled “KnowYourCharter.com” that will offer publicly available information on charter school funding that’s been gathered and sorted into a form anyone can now see at the speed of a keystroke. Announced today at the Ohio Statehouse by Innovation Ohio and the Ohio Education Association, the new website reveals for the first time a detailed comparison of charter and traditional public schools.
Speaking at a press conference today at the Capital, group leaders promoted it as an easy to use online tool for all taxpayers, especially parents, educators and policymakers. Innovation Ohio President Keary McCarthy said, for the first time, interested parties and the public at large can go to a single website to access data from 18 different spreadsheets for comparison and analysis. Parents can directly compare their school district’s academic performance with that of area charter schools in order to help them make an informed choice about where to send their children, he said.
“Parents with children in traditional schools can learn how much money is being deducted from state aid to their school district because of the way Ohio currently funds charters; policymakers can easily see the financial impact charters are having on particular school districts,” McCarthy said from the Ladies Gallery on the House side of the Statehouse. “And taxpayers, the ones who foot the over $900 million dollars spent on charter schools, ‘can judge’ for themselves how well their money is being spent by comparing State Report Card grades for charter and traditional schools.” And for the benefit of reporters present, McCarthy pointed out the new website can help them compare performance and costs of charter and traditional schools in their coverage for their respective media markets.
President of the Ohio Education Association, Becky Higgins, who taught first graders for 19 years, said, “With nearly 400 charter schools operating in Ohio, with fewer accountability standards than exist for traditional public schools, we believe it is important that parents, educators, taxpayers and policymakers have the tools they need to see the comparative performance of charters, as well as the costs they impose on local school districts.”
Also on hand with McCarthy and Higgins was Greg Ring, Superintendent of the Lorain County Educational Service Center. “In my experience, there is far too little public understanding of how charter schools actually work, how they perform, or how they are funded,” he said, adding, “But without this knowledge, ‘school choice’ is a hollow and largely meaningless concept. By pulling back the curtain and presenting relevant information in an easy to use format, KnowYourCharter.com is providing an incredibly valuable public service.”
Information supplied by IO and OEA say the new website “not only provides access to the state’s most recent Report Card information, but improves transparency by aggregating this and other relevant data at a single, easy-to-use website.” They noted that locating this data previously required visiting multiple sites and extracting the information from numerous and often confusing spreadsheets. Now, at KnowYourCharter.com, visitors will be able to compare schools in a particular geographical area across a wide variety of indices, including State Report Card grades, the amount of state money the schools receive, the percentage spent on classroom instruction, and the average number of years of teacher experience.
Asked to explain why the Ohio Department of Education hadn’t already performed this important task, McCarthy declined to speculate on ODE’s motives. OhioNewsBureau contacted ODE and asked the same question. John Charlton, a spokesman for ODE, did not respond to this query.