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Ohio, Now With 28 New Charter Schools

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Friday, September 7, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Marjie Kennedy / Flickr

This school year, Ohio students are attending 28 brand-new charter schools. The new schools include some that blend online and classroom learning as well as two overseen by the Ohio Department of Education's new sponsorship department.

This year's crop of 28 schools is down from 39 new charter schools opening in 2010-11, the latest year for which data is publicly available.

Last year, state lawmakers raised caps on how many charter schools could operate in Ohio, expanded the number of districts where charter schools can open, and allowed the Ohio Department of Education to try again to sponsor charter schools. (The department didn't do a great job last time around.)

They also limited charter school sponsors with too many low-performing charter schools from sponsoring additional schools.

Sponsors are nonprofit organization or other groups (like school districts) in charge of making sure charter schools do what they should – educate kids, follow the laws and not waste taxpayer dollars.

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The new charter schools open this year include three new "blended learning" schools operated by for-profit company Connections Education. The company already operates Connections Academy, a fully online statewide charter school. In the three new schools, students take courses in traditional classes and online.

The new schools also include:

  • A Toledo school operated by charter school management company Imagine Schools, which now operates 17 Ohio schools.
  • A Cleveland dropout recovery school operated by Akron-based White Hat Management. The new school starts up after the board of a Cleveland dropout recovery school previously operated by White Hat joined with other White Hat charter school boards to sue the company.
  • Two Cleveland schools that are part of the Breakthrough charter school network; and
  • Two charter schools sponsored by the Ohio Department of Education's sponsorship department.

Not on the list: Two new White Hat-operated charter schools that the Ohio Department of Education's sponsorship department had planned to sponsor. Those schools didn't get off the ground this year, but are slated to open next year, Ohio Department of Education spokesperson John Charlton said.

In addition to overseeing two new charter schools, the Ohio Department of Education's sponsorship department will also oversee several existing charter schools, including the Richard Allen Academies. The Richard Allen schools are a Dayton-based group of charter schools the state auditor says are plagued by mismanagement.

State Auditor Dave Yost said in February:

Booze, missing money, missing records and self-dealing has led to more than $929,850 in findings for recovery... Many of the areas of concern were related to payments to management company president/CEO Jeanette Harris and included potential conflicts of interest with family members, overpayments to the management company, and lack of policies, procedures and documentation.

Charlton, the Ohio Department of Education spokesperson, noted that state lawmakers didn't give the department much leeway in deciding which charter schools to sponsor.

Charlton said in an email that the schools' "governing boards and other individuals have taken care of many of the findings or are no longer associated with the schools or management company."

Charlton said the Ohio Department of Education will be "actively working" to fix any problems, "However, we are aware of the issues."

Update, Oct. 12:

Here's the list of the new charter schools for the 2012-13 school year as of the date this post was first published.


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