Differences in performance, funding of Ohio public vs. charter schools made transparent by new website

Have you heard about KnowYourCharter.com? It’s a newly-released resource by Innovation Ohio, a progressive Columbus-based think tank. Using a number of different metrics, such as state funding per student and average years of teacher experience, Know Your Charter enables visitors to compare the performance of their district’s public schools with that of charter schools in the area.

For instance, the public school system where I grew up — Plain Local in Canton — holds a B performance index grade from the Ohio Department of Education for the 2013-2014 school year. Yet, out of the seventeen charter schools available to students in my hometown district, the four highest-rated share only a C grade (four of the charters’ grades were unavailable).

Know-Your-Charter-Website

While the state of Ohio provides an average of $2,808 for every Plain Local public school student, the charter schools in the area receive a considerably larger chunk of taxpayer dollars. Quaker Digital Academy, for example, the “cheapest” charter school listed in my home district, gets $5,794 per student, while the for-profit Constellation Schools: Outreach Academy for Students with Disabilities rakes in a whopping $26,727 of public money for each of its thirty-six students.

While it’s clearly understandable that a school geared towards students with disabilities would incur higher costs, what’s disturbing here is that Constellation Schools possesses an F grade from the ODE and operates as a for-profit institution; meanwhile, siphoning off $1,156,773 of public dollars that could otherwise be going to serve the existing public school programs for students with special needs.

Regardless of where you stand on the pros and cons of “traditional” public schools vs. charter schools, the point here is that Ohio taxpayers have the right to know where their money is being spent, and what results that expenditure is producing. Unfortunately, the low performance of many of these high-costing charter schools in my district and throughout the state begs the question: If that money clearly isn’t going towards the benefit of students and improving their learning, where exactly is it going?