There is a war being waged against public schools. There are people actively seeking to make them fail or at least look as if they are failing. This is a strong statement that I substantiate in my book The Achievement Gap in U.S. Education: Canaries in the Mine published back in 2005.
Long ago, greedy people realized that there was a huge amount of money that was being spent on public education and that if they could siphon off even a small percentage of that, they would still become very wealthy. In my book I argue that rather than noting that public schools are a mixed bag when it comes to quality and focusing on how to improve the poorly performing ones, the people with this agenda have relentlessly focused on negative news about the public school system and by creating assessment schemes that make most schools look bad, parents have been made nervous about the quality of their local public schools and thus become targets for alternatives, such as private, parochial, and charter schools.
Ohio could be a poster child for how charter school operators get special treatment from the state government and then end up defrauding the system and Ohio governor John Kasich was not quizzed nearly enough on the scandal that unfolded in Ohio under his watch.
At the epicenter is David Hansen, Kasich’s former charter school chief, who resigned last summer after acknowledging that he didn’t include the grades of online charter schools in ratings of their oversight agencies. The online schools are generally low-performing and have ties to GOP donors, which led critics to pounce. And Hansen is married to Beth Hansen, who is Kasich’s campaign manager for his bid to be the next president.
Before quitting, Hansen submitted a $71 million grant application to the federal Education Department that included the now disputed calculations and, according to the Columbus Dispatch, described the state’s oversight of charter schools in glowing terms. After the state was awarded the grant, several Ohio congressional Democrats including Sen. Sherrod Brown questioned why, given the charter system’s “record of misusing funds and abusing the public’s trust.” The federal government has since frozen the grant money while completes a review, and the state took the embarrassing step in January of updating its application figures to say that instead of having nine charter schools that are poor performing, 57 are in that condition.
The state superintendent of schools Richard Ross, appointed by Kasich, came under fire for the way that charter schools were allowed to violate state law and retired.
Ross has come under fire on several fronts this year, most notably his department’s handling of charter schools. His mother also died this summer around the time when criticism was heaviest.
The Ohio Department of Education violated state law by leaving out the F grades of online schools – some of which were founded by large Republican donors – from key charter school evaluations. These evaluations of charter oversight agencies were the centerpiece of Kasich and the state’s efforts to improve the quality of a $1 billion charter school industry in the state that’s ridiculed nationwide, even by charter school supporters.
John Oliver tackles the problems with these charter schools (there are now about 6,700 of them nationwide) and how so many of them are a scam. Yes, there are a few exceptions that provide good educations to children but that does not detract from the fact that many children’s lives are being ruined by greedy profiteers getting rich by taking taxpayer money and providing poor or non-existent education.