A least 57 new charter schools plan to open this fall, according to the Ohio Department of Education. If all the schools open, that would be 18 more charter schools than opened at the start of the 2011-12 school year.
The potential increase comes after state lawmakers raised caps on how many charter schools could operate in Ohio and expanded the number of districts where charter schools can open. Those changes were included in last year’s state budget.
Decisions about how to cap or expand the number of charter schools are really important, the National Conference of State Legislatures says, because they show a state’s approach to charter schools: whether to limit them or to encourage their growth.
Ohio’s in the latter camp; enrollment in charter schools has more than tripled over the past ten years. And four Ohio school districts are among the top ten nationally for charter school enrollment.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says much of the debate about caps centers on quality:
Charter school advocates support removal of caps, claiming that they arbitrarily limit charter schools without regard to quality. This limits options that parents and students want for high-quality education, as demonstrated by the thousands of student names on charter school waiting lists…
Proponents contend that caps do control the overall quality of charter schools. Caps encourage authorizers to be more rigorous in closure and approval decisions, since caps allow only a limited number of schools.
In Ohio, the majority of the new charter schools would be brand-new, start-up charter schools. Ten would be “conversion” charter schools created by converting an existing traditional public school to a charter school. (One of the conversion schools — Southern Ohio Academy — would be in Scioto County, home of the rural charter schools we wrote about earlier.)
Eleven of the schools would open in Columbus, eight in Cleveland, and three in Cincinnati. (See the full list here.)
- Muskingham Valley
- Warrensville Heights
- West Carrollton
- West Geauga
And while the Ohio Department of Education turned down an application from Akron-based charter school company White Hat Management to have the department sponsor a K-8 school in Columbus, the nonprofit Buckeye Community Hope Foundation could sponsor a new White Hat dropout recovery school in Columbus this fall.
Charter-school sponsors are nonprofit organizations or other groups (like school districts or the Ohio Department of Education) in charge of making sure charter schools do what they should – educate kids, follow the laws and spend taxpayer dollars responsibly. In return, sponsors get up to 3 percent of a school’s state funding.
However, it’s not clear that all 55 charter schools will actually be enrolling students this fall. Ohio Department of Education spokesman Patrick Gallaway wrote in an email:
Again, these are only “potential” schools, indicating an interest and are proposing to open in the fall of 2012. Obviously, there are many steps they would need to complete to be approved and functional for 2012.