Some charter schools close in wake of Ohio reform law


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s new charter school reform laws seem to be blocking poor-performing schools from finding new backers to keep them open.

The state Department of Education said 11 charter schools this year lost their sponsors’ support, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported (http://bit.ly/1UDakqT). That means those schools are in danger of closing if they can’t find a new backer by the June 30 deadline.

The schools have been searching since January but haven’t found new organizations to authorize and oversee the schools. The six schools that asked for state backing were all rejected.

The schools are in a dire position in the wake of the new law that blocks schools dropped by a sponsor due to poor performance from signing on with another. This also is the first year the state can reject applications from schools with bad academic records.

Ohio’s House Bill 2 charter reform law was specifically designed to combat the practice of “sponsor hopping” — when schools jump from overseer to overseer as soon as one begins to hold them to certain standards.

“It’s working as we intended for it to,” State Sen. Peggy Lehner said of the bill, which she co-sponsored.

In addition to the 11 schools that have closed because of lost sponsor support, eight others have shuttered voluntarily. It’s unclear if any of those schools were in danger of losing their backers and closed preemptively.

Angela Thi Bennet, superintendent of the OAK Leadership Institute charter school in Cleveland, said the current climate of sponsorship has made it a challenge for schools given Ohio’s new evaluation methods.

The state recently started to rate charter sponsors for the first time. If schools are graded poorly, sponsors can now be subjected to penalties that may be as serious as closures.

The total number of charter schools that have shut down this year so far is less than the 30 that closed in 2015 and 27 in 2014.

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

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