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Charter schools in Ohio and Michigan sue feds over rules for multi-million grant program

Diane Bondareff
/
Shutterstock

More than 300 charter schools in Ohio are suing the US Department of Education over what they say are unfair rules that were set up last month for a federal grant program.

Attorney Caleb Kruckenberg is working with the Fordham Institute, representing charters in Ohio and Michigan. He said the charters believe the new rules make it harder for them to get millions of dollars in federal grants.

“One of them is that the charter school has to serve a school district that's overcrowded. And if you know anything about charter schools, that's not what they're there for," Kruckenberg said. "They're there to provide an educational alternative to schools that aren't doing a good job for the students.”

When asked about the low grades on state report cards Ohio charters have almost universally received, Kruckenberg said they should be judged on that for grants, not on this rule.

Kruckenberg also said another rule that charters can't increase racial or socioeconomic isolation disadvantages charters in urban areas.

“It seems like the Department of Education doesn't really care about the grades or test scores or giving good educational opportunities," Kruckenberg said. "Instead, they're looking at all these other factors that are really designed to hurt schools that operate in predominantly urban areas."

Meanwhile, a Republican-backed bill proposed earlier this year would expand the state's EdChoice voucher program to allow K-12 public students in Ohio to attend private and charter schools with state dollars. The state's largest teachers' union, the Ohio Education Association, estimates that "backpack bill" could cost $1.2 billion in state dollars.

Another bipartisan bill proposed late last year would require all charter schools in Ohio be operated as non-profits. It's the second attempt to pass this bill, which its sponsors say would bring more accountability and transparency to around 150 charters run by for-profit operators, which a report from an anti-charter school group showed spent 73% more on administrative costs per student than public schools do.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.