The New York Times chronicles the wide spread phenomenon of failing charter schools in Ohio.
Ohio became a test tube for the nation’s charter school movement during a decade of Republican rule here, when a wide-open authorization system and plenty of government seed money led to the schools’ explosive proliferation.
But their record has been spotty. This year, the state’s school report card gave more than half of Ohio’s 328 charter schools a D or an F.
Now its Democratic governor and attorney general, elected when Democrats won five of Ohio’s six top posts last November, are cracking down on the schools, which receive public money but are run by independent operators. And across the country, charter school advocates are watching nervously, fearful the backlash could spread.
Some 4,000 charter schools now operate across the nation, most advertising themselves as a smaller, safer alternative to the neighborhood school. Nationwide, the movement has gained traction among Democrats, partly because of the successes of a few quality nonprofit operators.
But some charters are mediocre, and Ohio has a far higher failure rate than most states. Fifty-seven percent of its charter schools, most of which are in cities, are in academic watch or emergency, compared with 43 percent of traditional public schools in Ohio’s big cities.
Behind the Ohio charter failures are systemic weaknesses that include loopholes in oversight, a law allowing 70 government and private agencies to authorize new charters, and financial incentives that encourage sponsors to let schools stay open.