A new report from Policy Matter Ohio, a liberal think tank, found that some charter schools that have been ordered to close for poor performance have managed to stay open with largely the same staff, and often in the same location, just under a different name.
Ohio’s charter school closure laws were tightened a couple years ago, creating some of the strictest charter school oversight measures in the nation. That move has been touted by the National Association of Charter Schools Authorizers as a model for other states to follow to ensure only successful, highly performing charter schools get to stay open.
But, the Policy Matters report says of the 20 charter schools that were slated to close since the state passed its automatic closure law in 2008, seven are still operating. Of those, five are still managed by the same charter school operators that ran them before they were close.
In a press release, Piet van Lier, the study’s author says:
The ability of schools and their management companies to skirt Ohio law reveals a systemic flaw in charter oversight. Until Ohio strengthens its charter-closure law, the state will continue to fall short of the goal of improving public education for all Ohio’s children.
The study found that six of the schools are run by the for-profit management companies Mosaica Education, The Leona Group, and White Hat Management. One is run by the non-profit Summit Academies, and another is run independently.
“Nobody here is skirting the law,” says Stephanie Klupinski with the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
Klupinski says the report does raise some valid questions, “but it doesn’t go deep enough into figuring out how we improve schools.”
How many teachers and principals have to leave to deem a school “different” or “turned around”? Klupinski says there are no clear answers to that.
Plus, she says several pieces of legislation passed in 2011 increases scrutiny of charter school sponsors. One prevents certain sponsors from reopening bad schools, and another encourages sponsors to preemptively close their own poor performing charters.
Klupinski says with the additional oversight of sponsors, “you would hope that the closure laws wouldn’t even have to come in to play.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Ohio passed legislation that increased scrutiny of charter school sponsors last year. That legislation was in fact passed in 2011.