Nearly one-third of teachers in Ohio's traditional public schools are chronically absent, but the rate in charter schools is significantly less. That’s according to a report released this week by the right-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that operates more than a dozen charter schools in the state.
The Fordham report says 28.5 percent of Ohio teachers in traditional public schools miss more than 10 days of class per year. In Ohio charter schools, the rate of chronic absenteeism drops to 6.2 percent.
The data does not include days teachers attend professional development training or school field trips.
According to the report, Ohio has the 15th highest rate of absenteeism in public school teachers out of the 36 states who have charter school systems. Hawaii ranks as the highest at 78.5 percent and Utah the lowest at 17.5 percent.
The study’s author, Fordham’s Senior Research and Policy analyst David Griffith, said there’s a correlation between teacher absenteeism and student achievement.
“We spend so much time and devote so many resources to trying to boost student achievement in so many other ways, and yet right in front of us is this straightforward and kind of intuitive way that we can make our education system work better and more effectively for kids,” Griffith said.
Griffith’s study is based on data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
While the report itself says the data cannot point to a cause for the higher rates of absences, Griffith said it also shows the gap grows in districts where public school teachers have collective bargaining rights and charter school teachers do not, proving a correlation, he said, between union contracts and chronic absenteeism.
Griffith said those contracts are “overly generous” when it comes to time off.
“We should probably rethink some of the provisions in these contracts and think about the impact they have on kids,” he said.
Ohio Federation of Teachers president Melissa Cropper said that finding is an attack on unions.
“That’s the way I view this report,” Cropper said, “that it’s trying to slam collective bargaining and I’m not sure what the purpose is behind that.”
Cropper said the benefits teachers gain through collective bargaining are one piece to the puzzle of attracting and retaining qualified educators in Ohio.
Becky Higgins, President of the Ohio Education Association, said the report draws “unwarranted conclusions.”
“It should be noted that Fordham is not only a proponent of, but in Ohio a sponsor of charter schools. It is not an unbiased organization,” Higgins said in a written statement.