This week's edition opens with a timely look at Senate Bill 180 - a pending piece of legislation that would make Ohio more competitive for Race to the Top dollars (you'll definitely want to check out Terry's testimony, as well as testimony from two dynamic Teach For America alums who spoke about their maddening experience to try to get certified in Ohio).
Next in the lineup, Mike highlights the grave funding cuts to Ohio's early college academy high schools and their decision to form a lobbying group to stay afloat. Eric discusses the performance gap between Ohio NAEP math scores and the state test results; this disconnect, though not unique to Ohio, should inform lawmakers and education officials who may be plowing forward in drafting Ohio's academic standards and possibly reneging on their commitment to the Common Core Initiative.
I'll take??Emmy's bait. I have no objection to churches working as authorizers, if they can do it well. Many of course run schools themselves-and some good ones, ones that we (Fordham) have been urging ed reformers to find ways to support and sustain. I haven't read Brookwood's application, so all I know is what google serves up, which includes this nice story about the church's work serving 54 special ed students "in grades seven through 12, including those with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and/or an autistic diagnosis." It certainly sounds like they're "education oriented," contrary to ODE, and (perhaps) that they've had some success.
So to me the question isn't whether they're a church, a tutoring program, a university, or a nonprofit think tank-it's simply whether they have the competence and the commitment to hold charter schools to a high standard, educationally, fiscally, and organizationally. I think ODE needs to have high standards for its authorizers, but it's distressing, if true, that Brookwood was rejected not on any of those grounds, but because they're a church.
This conversation about churches authorizing charter schools has raised my hackles. Not because it deals with religious organizations overseeing public schools and ensuring that public dollars are spent well (a conversation absolutely worth having), but because the conversation is happening in Ohio, where we already have too many charter school authorizers (70+ sponsors serving about 310 schools) - especially if the goal of authorizing is to birth and oversee great schools.
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation has been sponsoring (as authorizing is called here) charter schools in the Buckeye State since 2005, and as such we have learned a ton about the business. First and foremost, that providing high-quality oversight of public charter schools is costly and time-consuming, and this is if things go well. Being a sponsor in Ohio means not only holding schools accountable for their results (and ultimately making life or death decisions about schools), but also helping schools navigate a myriad of regulatory and legal issues.
Our base sponsorship agreement with schools is more than 30 pages long - and this doesn't include dozens of pages of attachments - and deals with issues ranging from responsibilities of parties to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Quality sponsorship requires serious legal expertise.
In Ohio, many sponsors make their economics work by not only sponsoring schools (for this
A central Ohio church has appealed the Ohio Department of Education's denial of its application to become a charter school authorizer (more on the story here, subscription required):
Brookwood [Presbyterian Church], doing business as Brookwood Community Learning Center, submitted a 49-page application to the ODE in November 2007 for approval as a charter school sponsor.
The church said that instead of reviewing application materials, the ODE determined that "neither the national Presbyterian church nor Brookwood Presbyterian Church is eligible to apply to become a sponsor" because they are not "education oriented" entities as required under state law.
"Despite the fact that nothing in the Ohio Revised Code prohibits a religious organization as such from ... being approved as a sponsor of community schools in Ohio, ODE's decision made it clear that the applicant's status as a church alone was a disqualifying fact in the eyes of ODE: 'also please know that no church has been approved as a sponsor,'" the church told justices.
It is true that no churches serve as authorizers in Ohio, but church-related organizations are certainly active in the charter sector with the knowledge and approval of the state.????Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio (ERCO) authorizes more than twenty charter schools in the Buckeye State.???? It was founded by Christ Tabernacle Ministries and the church still retains the rights to ERCO's trade name.???? Another state-approved authorizer, St. Aloysius Orphanage, oversees more than 30
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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