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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cyber Charter Schools and Ohio

Okay, let's stay on this theme of cyber charter schools and focus (continue to focus) on Ohio. Recently, a number of charter schools, many of them cyber schools in Ohio have come under fire either for failing to adequately test their students to ensure that there were meeting the same standards as public schools students or for their students not performing as well as public school students on these standardized tests. Without looking for specific news articles or links, I even recall that a number of these charter schools and cyber charter schools have been closed down.

This is interesting, considering that our friends from Deciding About School's Online have not been active for well over two months (getting closer to three months now). This organization was devoted to discussing the choice that was provided by cyber charter schools and was also based in Ohio. You may even recall in August, I took some shots at this constituency (see Virtual Schools and Choice, and Religion and Virtual Schooling) and in the past the guys over at DASO have been quick to comment and defend the cyber charter movement, but didn't take the bait on either of these entries.

I raise these issues for a couple of reasons. The first is to once again ask is am correct in my ascertain that the charter school movement is just a way for people to circumvent the separation of church and state and to provide religious school to their children here in the United States and that this ability to circumvent the public school system only serves to take needed dollars out of it in order to educate your child in a religious environment.

The second reason is because of another message that came through my inbox from NCSW@yahoogroups.com about charter schools in Ohio.

http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/nation/13275032.htm
Posted on Mon, Nov. 28, 2005
Ohio charter schools will go on trial
By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal

**snip**

COLUMBUS - Eight years after being created, charter schools will go on trial before the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Because of the sheer size of the movement and its notably poor academic performance, the case merits national attention and portends broad implications.

Charter schools enroll 66,145 students, according to the Department ofE ducation's latest monthly report.

While some of those students are from poorly performing public schools --for whom the program was designed to help -- tens of thousands are former home schoolers and private schoolers who have opted into a free, state-funded education.

This year, Ohio will shift $445 million from its traditional public-school funding formula into the privately run schools -- and not without controversy.

In spite of promises that they could produce better results for less money,c harter-school advocates agreed at a statewide conference this month that too many schools are failing academically and, to improve performance, they need the same money as traditional public schools.

At least 15 schools have been closed because of missing funds, lack of textbooks, unsafe conditions or simple financial collapse.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday, the seven justices (six Republicans) will hear about 30 minutes of oral arguments.

There are some clear divisions among the opponents and proponents: Unions vs. business, Democrats vs. Republicans, government vs. free enterprise.

And while justices are required to weigh issues of legality, questions have been raised about their own stake in the case.

Key fund-raiser

The majority has benefited from the political fund-raising efforts of Akron businessman David Brennan, who founded the state's biggest charter-schoolmanagement company.

His firm, White Hat Learning Systems, will receive more than $100 million of the state dollars flowing to charters this year.

Since 1990, Brennan has acted as a key Ohio Republican Party fund-raiser and helped establish and fund political action committees aimed at electing Republicans to the courts.

**snip**

Two philosophies

There are opposing philosophies in this case, with one suggesting that the state has an obligation to provide an adequate system of public education, and another suggesting that the state's role is to assist families insecuring an adequate education from a smorgasbord of choices.

The coalition says the smorgasbord has created multiple systems that arefunded unfairly and are held accountable to different standards.

**snip**

Brennan's company was named in the suit as a benefactor of unconstitutionalactivity.

The two sides disagree on whether charter schools are really public schools on two bases: governance and accountability.

The OFT maintains that charter schools are not public because private companies like White Hat organize the nonprofit boards that run the charter schools. That ensures that the charter boards then will hire the same private, for-profit companies as school manager.

Supporters maintain charter schools are public schools with open enrollment that are held to the same academic standards as traditional public schools.

Opponents also say charter schools are exempt from many state regulations and are performing far below local traditional schools.
Obviously the crowd at NCSW@yahoogroups.com are interested in this article (and case) because f its references to homeschooling, but the article does touch on one of the issues that I have raised... Should public money be used to fund these endeavors?

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it is a religious issue. States don't want to fund religious curriculum and eventually they'll be sure they are not. However, that won't be the end of home-based/cyber charter programs. Alot of these parents will adapt and are adapting when forced to choose between their religious curriculum and secular curriculum.
I think your question is a non-issue. If I'm correct, what then is the question that you should be asking if you take out aspects of religion? Something is going on here. There is an agenda. Be rest assured.

2:13 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

The charter school movement is largely supported by the same conservative base that supports religion in the schools, the ten commandments in the courthouse, etc.. A good read on this issue, and one that portrays a fairly accurrate assessment of the situation, is Michael Apple's "Educating the 'Right' Way".

MKB

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that those who are considered conservatives or in the religious right are not a part of educational reform.
I'm saying you are asking the wrong question. The religious aspect isn't it.

Your question: >>>The first is to once again ask is am correct in my ascertain that the charter school movement is just a way for people to circumvent the separation of church and state and to provide religious school to their children here in the United States and that this ability to circumvent the public school system only serves to take needed dollars out of it in order to educate your child in a religious environment.>>>

Vouchers, yes. Charter schools, no.
Generally by state governments, charters are being preferred over vouchers. I suspect that will be the trend. Charters are safer than vouchers because of accountability.

9:54 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

You can still be accountable and base your school and its philosophy around religious teachings. Accountability just means that the students do well on standardized exams, which is no surprise, considering the socio-economic status of students that most charter schools cater to.

It is like the arguement that children who play a musical instrument generally do better in school, forgetting the fact that the children who's parents can afford to buy them a musical instrument and have the time to make sure that they practice tend to be better off financially and have more interest in their child's schooling anyway.

Of course most charter schools live up to their accountability responsibilities, they cater to a better level of students. Are they used as a way to introduce religion into the classroom by the conservative factions in the United States, of course. The same way that conservatives have taken over many school board through the democratic election process, which is also why we hear so much more about intelligent design in the schools than we did a decade ago.

The conservative movement is organizing to bring about an end to public education and charter schools are just one of the ways that they are trying to do this.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This part right here that you wrote, I agree with to an extent:
>>The conservative movement is organizing to bring about an end to public education and charter schools are just one of the ways that they are trying to do this.>>>

I disagree with the religious aspect that you are throwing in. I see it as one aspect that is being *used* in voucher schools (private religious schools). It is a non-issue imo with charters. You made some generalizations about charters in your comments which I think are off. I can't take the time though.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Mimi Rothschild said...

Choice will make all schools better. In a free market economy, healthy competition can give the consumer the best product at the lowest price. The problem with America's school system is that it is a monopoly. Mediocrity runs rampant through the system because it has a captive constituency. The only way out is if you have means to go elsewhere. Vouchers solve this inherent flaw. Vouchers put choice in consumers hands. Vouchers force providers to make a better product/school or the next party will.

6:57 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Spoken like a true ideologue Mimi! Free market principles barely work in the private sector - I mean they did such a smash, bang job with the economy over the past six to eight years when left largely unregulated and unchecked. Now you honestly believe that applying those same principles to a public sector body like education will actually yield results? The research thus far on two decades of charter schools has shown us that this clearly isn't the case. But like any good American neo-liberal, your faith in the free market and its ability to solve any and every problem remains steadfast!

4:18 PM  

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