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Ohio: Charter School Advocate Selected to Run Charter School Agency

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If anyone thought that the frequent scandals in the charter sector in Ohio would bring about a new era of accountability and oversight for charter schools, think again. The Ohio Department of Education has hired a charter school activist to run the state’s charter school office.


The Ohio Department of Education has hired charter school advocate RaShaun Holliman, the head of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, to lead its charter school office.


He started Monday in the position once held by Joni Hoffman, a longtime employee of the department who was part of last year’s data-rigging controversy involving online schools.


Hoffman and Frank Stoy, another key official in the charter school office, are retiring.


Whether Holliman will just promote charter schools, as he has in previous jobs, or will force Ohio charters to have better quality is unclear. He did not return a call to the OAPCS office and biographical information provided by the state and by that organization does not show any previous enforcement work.


The former principal of the Focus Learning Academy charter school in Columbus worked for the Georgia Charter Schools Association, where he handled communications and outreach, before returning to Ohio in late summer to head OAPCS.


But that non-profit organization that was once the leading voice for charter schools in the state has lost members and officially announced this week that it will shut down at the end of the year.


The hiring drew a few objections, given the national ridicule of Ohio’s $1 billion charter school industry both from comedians and political commentators, as well as from national charter supporters.


“You don’t hire an industry insider to be a tough new sheriff for the industry they were just advocating for,” said former state representative Steve Dyer, a frequent critic of charter schools. “It’s certainly an image problem.”


The funniest line in the story is this one:


Chad Aldis of the Fordham Institute, an organization that promotes charter schools but also quality standards for them, understood that concern, but was less worried. Hirings of officials from traditional public schools happen all the time, he noted, without raising alarms of favoritism for those schools.


So, hiring an experienced superintendent to lead the state’s education department is equivalent to hiring an industry insider to police a scandal-ridden industry. The overwhelming majority of children in Ohio attend public schools, which consistently outperform charter schools. Will the new director of charter schools crack down on the frauds, grifters, thieves, and cheats in the charter sector? Or is this just another example of industry capture of the regulatory agency?


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