It appears that the Legislature, Governor and Mayor have agreed to a deal to let the so-called Cleveland Plan move through the legislature next month, hamstringing the Mayor's efforts to pass a property tax levy that would pay for the plan. The details will be announced at a 3 p.m. news conference today.
As I have said before, Ohio's legislature has cut funding to Cleveland by about 15% relative to inflation since 2000 -- an amount that can't be explained by a reduction in students. In addition, because of how Ohio funds its Charter Schools, Cleveland gets $3 million a year less per pupil because Charter Schools remove so much state money from the district. Charter School children are the only kids in the state that get full state funding. All other children have their funding shared between state and local revenue (all kids get some federal money too).
It appears that the plan will allow Charter Schools to also collect local revenue. This is an incredibly dangerous provision for the future of the state's public schools. That's because the state will not reduce the amount the Charters get from the state to account for the additional funding stream this plan will generate.
Remember, we were told for years that the reason Charter Schools got more than twice as much per pupil state revenue as traditional schools is because they couldn't raise local revenue. Now that they will be able to (I know the language only allows this sharing in Clevleand, but does anyone really doubt that this won't be a central component of Gov. Kasich's education plan introduced next year?), the state will still allow them to collect the larger state amount PLUS local revenue. Any pretense that Charters are cheaper for taxpayers than traditional schools is officially out the window.
They'll be getting $7,109 per pupil from the state (traditionals get $3,390) PLUS local revenue PLUS federal revenue PLUS not having to adhere to about 200 regulations the traditional schools have to PLUS no busing. Again, only 23 of the 300+ Charters in this state would rank in the to 1/2 of all school districts on the state's Performance Index Score. And, according to Ohio Department of Education data, ALL school districts lose money and kids to charters now.
The Cleveland Plan has great hope within it. Universal Pre-School for all 3 and 4 year olds. Early Childhood Academies to reinforce the most important developmental years in kids' lives. More innovative school designs.
However, if the district fails to pass a levy in November (and even if it does), the likelihood of ANY of these provisions actually taking place is so small as to border on Fantasy Land.
I have to say that I am extremely concerned that these promises that have peer-reviewed evidence behind them demonstrating they will actually work will never happen. If they don't, then all the Cleveland Plan did was force extreme concessions by the Cleveland Teachers Union to accommodate an impossible fiscal structure created by state leaders and policies. Those concessions have very little peer-reviewed research behind them suggesting they will improve student outcomes.
I feel for Mayor Jackson. As someone who's had to deal with major education reform during tough economic times, I know exactly what he's going through -- one of few in the state who can.
However, it was the state, not Cleveland Municipal Schools, that put Jackson in this position. If Gov. Kasich believes in this plan as much as he says he does (he will attend today's 3 p.m. news conference), he should put his money where his mouth is and pay for it. My piece of advice to Jackson? turn to Kasich during the news conference and demand he restore all the money he cut to Cleveland in the last budget. There's a state budget surplus, so he could do that.
For that is the only way, I fear, that the children of Cleveland will receive ANY benefit from this plan.