Saturday, October 03, 2009

Charter Schools and Unlikely Ally for Strickland

Interesting post last week on Flypaper, the blog of the Fordham Foundation, a free-market oriented, pro-charters think tank with roots in Dayton. They propose some logrolling regarding Gov. Strickland's proposal to freeze the tax cut for a year. As FP correctly notes, a ten percent cut in ed. funding would devastate Ohio charters.

The proposal is to get charter backing for the tax plan in exchange for passing/signing a Husted bill poking holes in the current charter moratorium. FB says it would allow sponsors of "high-performing" charter schools to set up new schools.

To the extent this is a real trial balloon it's something worth considering. Recall that the charter industry ran attack ads against certain legislators deemed unfriendly during the budget battle. Having the charter industry as an ally, however temporary, would be a help at a time when friends are hard to come by.

I'd be all for a little legislative logrolling, but the Husted bill has serious flaws. First off, in addition to allowing new brick-and-mortar charters the bill would also lift the lid on more e-schools. Just because. Of course the fact that eschools make tons of money despite poor performance might have something to do with it.

As for the brick-and-mortar provisions, they need to be tightened up. The current language would set the threshold at having schools in continuous improvement. That's hardly high performing. And a sponsor can open new schools for each schoolin continuious improvement, regardless of the shape of its overall portfolio. 100 school in Academic Watch and 2 in continuous improvement? No problem, open two more. Much better would be to allow only those sponsors with a generally clean bill to open new schools.

But the thought by Fordham is a nice one. The post as a whole has predictable snark coming from a Republican-leaning outfit -- it's not a tax hike if taxes don't go up and saying the fiscal crisis is Strickland's fault is laughable. But all that said, Strickland will need all the help he can get to make this work. If the charter honks are willing to reach across the aisle, it's at least worth a listen.