Ohio

Eye on Education

Why Ohio’s Early Charter School Era Was Kind Of Like Medieval Times

Bill SIms

Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Bill SIms

Ohio’s first charter school opened 15 years ago. And in those early days of the charter school movement, things were rather “feudal,” says Bill Sims, head of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools:

Initial stakeholders had their own lobbyists. They had their own ramparts but without much of a developed community roundtable. And i think much of what’s happened in those 15 years is that the community has been much more effective in working together.


Coincidentally, Sims helped start the alliance, which advocates for charter schools’ common interests, seven years ago.

He’ll retire at the end of this year. The group has not yet selected a new leader.

Before joining the alliance, Sims was vice president of school management for K12 Inc., a national online education company that runs one of Ohio’s largest online charter schools.

We spoke with Sims last month about Ohio’s charter school movement and asked him why so many Ohio charter schools are operated by for-profit management companies.

About 30 percent of all Ohio charter schools are operated by for-profit management companies. And about 60 percent of charter schools that are operated by any type of management company are operated by for-profit companies.

Sims says it’s because Ohio doesn’t give new charter schools additional money to pay for their startup costs:

There is not adequate funding for independent startups.

Most folks who are looking to startup charter schools now are pretty much forced to look to charter management companies because they have the resources to be able to handle the capital costs of starting schools up. That’s where the capital resources are.

i think the fact that Ohio no longer has startup funds for charter schools, the fact that Ohio has not received any startup money through the charter school program at the federal level makes it extremely difficult for independent [charter school] folks unless they’ve got a benefactor with deep pockets to start up.

I think it’s one of the reasons why Ohio has one of the largest percentages of charter schools run by charter school management organizations of any state.

Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the percentage of charter schools operated by for-profit management companies.

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