Molly Bloom left StateImpact Ohio in December 2013 to serve as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She has covered education and other topics for the Austin American-Statesman and the Newark Star-Ledger. A New Jersey native, she has a bachelor’s degree in history from Princeton University.
Earlier this year, James McCord resigned as superintendent of Virtual Community School of Ohio, an online charter school sponsored by the Reynoldsburg school district that is facing financial and management troubles — such as suspected nepotism . The school also faces federal censure after failing to properly educate students with disabilities.
McCord went on to open eight new charter schools this school year, all managed by a for-profit company he founded. Those schools closed last month–after collecting more than $1 million in state funds.
By the time the Olympus schools closed, one had only four confirmed students; another had five; another, six. In all, the eight schools had a total of 128 students show up.
In a way, McCord’s venture was no different from many start-up companies that don’t make it, except for one thing: Ohio taxpayers helped fund this business failure. The state paid Olympus schools about $1.2 million, most of it for students it couldn’t confirm received schooling, the state Department of Education said.
A bill introduced earlier this month by state Sen. Randy Gardner, a Republican from Bowling Green, would change the new teacher evaluation system. It would allow teachers to be evaluated less frequently and have less of their evaluation based on their students’ academic growth.
Former Miami University President James Garland led successful efforts to recruit more out-of-state students to Miami University by marketing the public college as a market “a kind of elite public university.” Those efforts included using merit aid and borrowing heavily to upgrade the school’s recreational facilities and dorms.
But he tells Pro Publica that while those efforts paid off for Miami University financially, they had a downside. Garland says he wishes he had been more aware of how things like installing climbing walls in gyms and serving sushi in dining halls can hurt a school’s academic rigor and standards.
I just think there’s a movement these days among universities that are able to do this, to turn themselves into country clubs. But inevitably that comes at expense of academic rigor and the quality of the academic program.
In my tenure we certainly contributed to this trend. And there’s a price you pay for that. For every dollar you put into building a student sports facility –- workout rooms and exercise rooms and squash courts and things of that sort — every dollar you put into that is a dollar you’re not spending on improving classrooms or paying your professors a high enough wage that you can recruit from higher up in job pool…
The problematic thing is that it loads the universities up with debt and with everyone doing it, the competitive advantage of doing it is quickly lost. If everyone is trying to recruit from the same pool of students, then there are no winners. Everyone just spends a lot of money and gets the same number of students.
This week Columbus school district voters rejected a 9-mill levy that would have increased local property taxes by 24 percent. The levy would also have sent some local tax dollars directly to charter schools.
Rhonda Johnson, head of the Columbus Education Association, and a vocal supporter of the issue, said Wednesday on All Sides with Ann Fisher that she thought voters had lost confidence in the school system.
“I think it boils down to the trust because when the community puts their trust in us we do better at the polls and I just think there was a lack of trust,” Johnson said.