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Feds Layer More Restrictions on Millions Going to Ohio's Charter Schools

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The U.S. Department of Education has outlined new restrictions on a $32 million dollar grant it gave Ohio to expand charter schools in the state.

The move follows sharp criticism from several groups, including lawmakers at the federal and state level, as well as Ohio's auditor, over the Department's decision to award such a large sum of money to the state. Ohio's charter sector has been under intense scrutiny for a number of issues, including corruption and poor academic outcomes in several of its schools, and critics are concerned the windfall of cash will only perpetuate these issues.

In addition, the state official who wrote Ohio's original grant application for the federal money resigned in July after a grade scrubbing scandal. David Hansen, who was the Ohio department of education's school choice director, omitted the failing grades of some online, dropout-recovery charters while evaluating authorizers as part of a new rating system.

Big Money, Big Reforms

In September, the Department announced it was awarding Ohio $32 million through the federal Charter Schools Program and recommending the state receive a total of $71 million over the next five years.

Ohio received by far the largest sum out of seven states and the District of Columbia. (Interestingly, Michigan's application for $45 million was rejected even though the state has had oversight problems similar to Ohio's.)

As outlined in a letter from the Department, Ohio now has to receive permission from the feds to draw down its funds. The state also has to review its Charter School Program application to make sure it's up-to-date, submit all relevant state audits of its charter schools to the Department, and give a detailed list of changes to the state's charter regulations, among other things. Ohio lawmakers passed a sweeping charter reform bill in September and Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, signed it into law earlier this week

After all that, the Department's letter says it will decide "whether further actions or conditions are warranted." You can read the full letter from the Department below. 

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