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Ex-Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio wrote a blistering letter to Arne Duncan to complain about the $71 million awarded to Ohio’s floundering charter sector. Strickland is now running for the seat of Republican Senator Rob Portman. Strickland was joined by other high-ranking Democrats. Also joining in: U.S. Rep Tim Ryan, the Democratic caucus of the Ohio Senate, state school board member Mary Rose Oakar and State Rep. Teresa Fedor, the ranking democrat on the House Education Committee.
Duncan’s gift went to a sector that has been under fire in the Ohio media for scandals, corruption, and political payoffs.
Here is Ted Strickland’s letter:
The Honorable Ame Duncan
Secretary, U.S. Department of Education Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) Department of Education Building
400 Maryland Ave, SW Washington, DC 20202
October 5, 2015
Dear Mr. Secretary,
I write to add my name to the growing chorus of disbelief and disappointment with your recent recommended award of $71 million for charter schools in Ohio. As we have discussed many times, I am not against all charter schools and am certainly not opposed to high quality, not-for profit school choice. But too many of Ohio’s charter schools are an embarrassment. Those who care about kids are ashamed that these failing schools are being funded by the taxpayers, and that Ohio is still allowing kids to be educated at these clearly ineffective institutions.
And it has only gotten worse. Less than a year ago, the very same organization whose research the Department cites in its press release (Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes) found that, “On average, students in Ohio ‘s traditional public schools learned significantly more than students in charter schools in both reading and mathematics.” The Center also finds, “The disadvantage for charter students is 14 fewer days of learning in a school year in reading and 43 fewer days of learning in math for the same time period .”
Why is the Department rewarding this unacceptable behavior? Not only are these poor performing charter schools undeserving of millions of additional funds, this grant to charters comes at a time when many of Ohio’s traditional public schools are facing significant cuts and are being asked to do more with less. Surely this money could be better invested in public schools that have a proven track record of better serving Ohio students.
And if dismal charter school performance isn ‘t enough, we now know that Ohio’s State Department of Education was illegally propping them up. In July, Ohio’s chief charter school oversight officer-the very person who filled out Ohio ‘s application for your grant money-resigned when it was discovered that he deliberately tampered with charter school sponsor evaluations to mask just how horrible charter schools are actually performing. You just awarded $71 million in taxpayer dollars to a state department of education that has been rigging the books. The Department should go back over Ohio’s grant application and see whether it was rigged as well.
It’s not only me, or the Democrats in Ohio, or the editorial boards that are concerned about what is happening with charters. This charter situation in Ohio is so bad that even the Republican Auditor of State, a supporter of charter schools himself, said he was shocked to learn of your award. This is because in a recent audit he concluded that Ohio has a, “broken” system of charter schools.
Secretary Duncan, you need to be concerned when a state’s auditor and a supporter of charter schools has this type of reaction to your grant announcement.
All of these things have been widely publicized , and I cannot for the life of me understand why the Department awarded a state whose charter school office is riddled in scandal the largest sum of money of any state.
I fear ideology has clouded good judgement in this decision, and I urge to you go back and look at the hard data. If you do, I am confident you will reconsider. There is no way this award is justified , and what bothers me the most is that it is Ohio’s children that will suffer.
Former Ohio Governor