Ohio is falling behind in the competition for education talent

Cities and states across the country are in direct competition for education talent (teachers, school leaders, and key administrators) and great charter school models and operators. This struggle for talent and expertise is especially acute in the country’s mid-section.

We see it up close and personal in Ohio in our work with local school districts and as a charter school authorizer. There isn’t a week that goes by that we aren’t asked for names or contacts of potential school leaders, curriculum directors, or even teachers who are an expert in a foreign language, special education, or other high-demand subject. Great charter school models, especially those with an interest in trying to turn around long-suffering district schools, are also highly sought after and wooed.

MindTrust in Indianapolis is arguably the Gold Standard for groups in the country that are expert, strategic, and successful at recruiting talent to launch schools, work in schools, or serve needy students and families in different ways. But others are also doing great work, including New Schools for New Orleans, Charter School Partners in Minneapolis, 4.0 Schools in Louisiana, and Lead Public Schoolsin Tennessee.

Ohio’s efforts pale in comparison and scale to other states.

Ohio has made some gains in recent years in the competition for talent and the recruitment of successful charter school models to the state—for example: Teach For America (placing corps members in Ohio for the first time in 2012), KIPP, SEED Academy (planning to open a school in Cincinnati), and Building Excellent Schools. There are also some homegrown charter models that draw top human capital and are able to replicate great schools. But, Ohio’s efforts pale in comparison and scale to other states.

For example, Fordham has been authorizing charter schools in Ohio since 2005, and we’ve struggled mightily to recruit great schools (only one KIPP and one BES school and both opened in 2008). This year we are excited because our portfolio will include three new schools in 2012—Columbus Collegiate Academy West, DECA Prep in Dayton, and Village Preparatory School in Cleveland—all of which are offspring of some of the state’s highest performing charter school models. (We also hope to authorize two new KIPP schools in 2013). Yet, this success doesn’t come close to meeting the need here or in comparison to what other states are doing.

One further, major setback to Ohio’s efforts is that the state did not win any of the $54 million in competitive charter school grants issued by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this month. Where Ohio got zero dollars, Minnesota received $28 million over five years for new schools, New Jersey received $14.5 million over three years, and Massachusetts received $12 million. These three states all have stronger charter school laws, and they are all committed to helping great new charter schools open and thrive.

Ohio is in a competition for excellence in education, and despite some wins along the way we risk falling further behind some of our smarter and more nimble competitors. Other states are doing a better job of attracting both education talent and great school models and this will surely pay dividends for them in the form of student achievement.

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