Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ohio Charter Schools Confirm Kasich Ed Plan Insufficient

Today's testimony before the Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee was quite revealing about Charter Schools' concerns with Gov. John Kasich's new education funding plan. Namely, this reliably Republican constituency was clear about one thing: Kasich's plan will hurt them.

When a group that's been as solidly in your corner politically as Charter Schools remains publicly neutral on your signature Education Reform plan, you have problems.

This is important as the debate moves forward because if even Charter Schools are saying the funding plan is inadequate, then perhaps changing the plan becomes more feasible. As I blogged about last week, there was plenty for Charter Schools to be worried about in Kasich's education plan. The per pupil foundation amount was being dropped from $5,700 per pupil to $5,000 per pupil, Charters weren't given a guarantee that their funding wouldn't dip below previous years' levels, and the economically disadvantaged weighted funding was low.

And it appears that Charter School advocates agreed with that assessment.

According to testimony from Stephanie Klupinski, of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools,
"The per pupil amount for Ohio’s charter schools is currently not enough, and we are concerned that HB 59 will make things even more difficult by reducing funding for many public charter schools and widening the gap.
Although we do not have spreadsheets for charter schools, we have done preliminary estimates.  Schools that will be particularly devastated by the proposed change include e-schools and some of the highest performing charters—schools that attract students from many different districts.  Many charters are helping blur district lines by enrolling a cross-section of students, and we don’t want to penalize our charters who serve students from different districts. That, unfortunately, is what we fear this proposal does.
Consider the effect of the proposed changes on Columbus Preparatory Academy (CPA), one of the highest scoring schools in the state with a Performance Index of 111.1.  Our simulation estimates that CPA is likely to lose at least $100,000 in funding, even after factoring in funds intended to support enhanced Early Childhood and Gifted services and to address facility inequities.

Governor Kasich has repeatedly emphasized that no district will receive less under his budget proposal.  We think it is only fair and equitable that public charter schools do not receive less per pupil than what they currently receive.  To remedy the problem, one possible solution may be that the per pupil funding amount that follows the student be the greater of the current amount of  $5,704 or the amount generated by the combination of Opportunity Grant and Targeted Resources funding as proposed in HB 59.  Schools should be assured that charter students will be funded at no less than the amount that they are today, while also being able to take advantage of increases where they are available.  We believe this may be an appropriate fix, but without having seen the budget spreadsheets for charter schools, we cannot be certain.  We thank you for your efforts to obtain the spreadsheets—I know we are all looking forward to seeing them."

Klupinski's testimony mirrored the testimony of other Charter School advocates, including those from White Hat Management -- David Brennan's outfit.

What's very clear is that Charters don't like the $5,000 per pupil foundation amount, nor do they like that they're not going to be getting any guarantees that their funding won't drop from the previous year.

There is a potential synergy here with what traditional public schools have been saying throughout this process. Is there a way to finally have Charters and traditional public schools come together around a set of principles?

Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope. And wouldn't that be a welcome change from the last 15 years of distrust between the two groups?