Kasich’s ODE Kills Off Another Online School
Insight School of Ohio to Close, Impacting 1,300 Students
By John Corrigan
(COLUMBUS) Insight School of Ohio, an online charter school chosen by 1,300 students and operated by one of the nation’s largest charter school management companies K-12, will be closed on June 30, 2018. Combined with the forced closure of the ECOT and VCS, to name a few, the move continues the tolling funeral bell of school choice in Ohio, with the eventual probability of no independent online schools to serve unique student populations.
Amanda Coley, the head of the school, told The Columbus Dispatch that the school was “effectively functioning as a dropout prevention charter already, with a majority of its students older than 16, including teenage moms and dads, homeless students and those with mental-health issues and drug addictions. “The unfortunate reality is we’re the last option.” Sound familiar?
Insight also had a very high management fee structure, a 22% fee for managing the school. The much criticized ECOT management fee for Altair Learning was 4%.
As was the case with ECOT, Insight serves specific condition student populations such as students who are ill, pregnant, raising children, bullied children, and just students and parents that desired the flexibility of online education. Conley echoed those types of students when lamenting the closure of Insight.
Buckeye Community Hope Foundation dropped the school based on its academics at a time when the school had been functioning effectively as what is known as a drop out recovery school. Ohio law allows schools with over 50% of its population as high school drop outs, being 16 years old or older. The law allows such schools in the hope that second chances will allow for a student to receive a high school diploma, rather than not having the educational attainment to succeed in the work world.
Buckeye would not consider drop out recovery status for Insight. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has been strong- arming charter school sponsors to drop online schools, holding over their heads standards from H.B. 2 of the 131st General Assembly, that involve ODE enforcing the new law under rules that were designed to be enforced under a prior version of the law. In three years, ODE has never successfully passed new rules implementing H.B. 2 through the Joint Committee On Agency Rule Review.
In 1997, when Ohio created charter schools, and in its 2003 rewrite of the statute, it purposely allowed brick and mortar charter schools to only operate in school districts that were in Academic Watch or Emergency, and now, under the report card system implemented after 2003, academic failure based on that report card. No failing traditional school can be closed in similar fashion, despite their academic performance. Ohio’s current school funding formula increases aid to schools with failing students.
This is relevant to the plight of the online schools, as the original conception of school choice was to recognize that the student populations came to these schools oftentimes years behind in their academic achievement, and the charter model could provide a different environment for students learning that may be safer or more cohesive for the students and families. H.B. 2 essentially wiped out that expectation, holding charter schools to higher academic standards than traditional public schools, and forcing sponsors to shed schools, like online schools, that attracted students who were far behind in their academic performance.
Without a change in Ohio law by majority vote of the Legislature and without any debate, ODE is systematically eliminating online education in Ohio by fiat and intimidation of charter school sponsors. By the time the next Governor takes office, and Legislature is seated, ODE could conceivably eliminate online schools entirely, all without benefit of this little thing we call “representative democracy.”
And still.. our politicians sit quietly as they watch the demise of school choice right before their eyes.