Curious omissions: charter schools left out of Ohio's Race to the Top application

Ohio has the sixth-highest charter school enrollment in the nation ???????? about 90,000 children attend a Buckeye State public charter school.???? In cities like Dayton and Cleveland, some of the top-performing schools are charter schools.???? Cleveland's superintendent plans to turn some buildings over to charter operators through his district transformation plan, and community, business, philanthropic and education leaders have rallied to support the state's most promising charters, including Ohio's first KIPP school.???? But a reader of Ohio's Race to the Top application wouldn't realize any of this in reading the state's pitch to the feds for $400 million.

As Terry points out in the Columbus Dispatch, the application makes clear that while charters exist in Ohio, they are tolerated at best by current state leadership and won't be a major component of any state-led reform efforts.???? This is particularly perplexing when it comes to school turnarounds:

By contrast, the applications for Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana and Colorado not only recognize the good efforts of individual charter schools and charter support groups but also terms such organizations critical partners in their school turnaround efforts (another key component of the application).

Ohio's application is silent on any role for charters in turning around the state's 69 "persistently lowest-achieving schools" despite the fact that most brick-and-mortar charters operate in the state's neediest neighborhoods. Consider, for example, that the Cleveland Metropolitan School District now favors the use of charters in turning around some of that city's most troubled schools.

Whether or not Ohio is selected for federal Race to the Top funds, the state will have a better shot at achieving its stated goal of "radical change in a compressed time" if charters are brought in as a full partner in the effort instead of being kept at arm's length.

--Emmy Partin

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