Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 5, Number 20
November 28, 2011
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Fordham Sponsorship 2010-11 Year in Review
By Kathryn Mullen Upton ,
WILD AND WACKY POLITICAL BATTLES
Since their inception in 1997, charter schools have been at the center of some of the most politically contentious debates about education in Ohio. The past year offered yet another example of charter school controversy, but this time with a twist. The 2010 elections were very good for Buckeye State Republicans, with John Kasich winning the governor’s race (replacing Ted Strickland who had been a charter adversary throughout his four-year term). Republicans also took control of the House while expanding their majority in the Senate.
Almost immediately GOP lawmakers set out to make the Buckeye State more inviting to charter schools. Governor Kasich’s budget proposals in House Bill (HB) 153 offered a solid plan for not only increasing the number of charters in Ohio but improving their quality. Crucial elements included encouraging successful operators to clone good schools; leaning hard on authorizers to fix or close failing schools and banning the replication of failure; placing schools’ ostensibly independent governing boards in clear charge of any outside organizations that they engaged to run their education programs; creating professional and ethical norms for all parties; insisting on transparency around academics, governance, and finances; channeling fair funding into successful schools; and introducing best practices and expert advice into every step of the process. This was a vision that excited us and many others in Ohio and beyond because it sought to boost quality, not just quantity.
It seemed at the time that finally the Buckeye State was positioning itself to become a leader in both charter school quality and