The U.S. Department of Education this week awarded Ohio a $32 million federal grant to expand charter schools — with another $39 million recommended in the future — despite significant performance and oversight problems with Ohio charters.
Ohio’s award was easily the largest of the seven states and District of Columbia that received federal Charter Schools Program grants.
The grant comes despite numerous controversies for Ohio charter schools in the past year. One study described Ohio charters’ academic performance as “grim,” and another said Ohio laws “protect powerful vested interests … and tolerate academic mediocrity.” Then this summer, Ohio School Choice Director David Hansen resigned after admitting he removed certain failing grades from evaluations of charter sponsors.
Ohio Department of Education spokeswoman Kim Norris said the state made federal officials aware of Hansen’s departure during the review process.
Charter opponents including teachers’ unions and some Democratic lawmakers questioned the grant Tuesday. The left-leaning group ProgressOhio said the money should be withheld until Hansen is replaced with “a highly qualified educator,” and a better mechanism is in place to oversee the money.
Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools President Darlene Chambers said the grant recognized “efforts within the state to replicate and expand high-performing charter schools.”
The U.S. Department of Education said the grant funding will allow states “to run state-level grant competitions to support approximately 400 new and expanded public charter schools.”