And most of those goodies were at the expense of Ohio's traditional public school kids, nearly 90% of which do not attend any of the choice options the state is currently doubling down on.
Remember that only 10% of Ohio's Charter Schools rate A or A+ on the state's report card. All but one school district loses money and children to Charter Schools. And every kid not in a Charter loses 6.5% of their state revenue because Charters remove so much money from school districts.
And the average Charter School spends more than 28% of their money on Administration, while the average traditional building spends less than 6% and the average district about 11%.
I will let the report speak for itself, but suffice it to say that while Charter and Private schools get large infusions of cash and reductions in accountability, Traditional Public Schools get less money with increases in accountability.
Again, this is the perpetuation of the terribly costly School Choice War that has benefited very few kids, but has made some folks in this state incredibly wealthy. All at the expense of our children.
We need this to end.
Here are recommendations we at IO have made to improve the situation with this budget:
1) Make it easier, not harder, to close failing charter schools
Current law requires that a charter school rate an F on the state report card for two of three years, or three of four, depending on the grades the school serves. Adding an additional hoop that must be jumped through (as the senate bill does) will make it harder not easier to close these failing schools. At the very least, the conference committee should strike the senate provision and maintain the closure standard contained in current law.
2) Fund excellent charters, not just more bad ones
Any additional revenue or accountability exemptions for charter schools should be tied to proven academic achievement. The charter program has been in existence for 15 years. It is time to let the unsuccessful schools die and increase support only to charters that have proven successful. There is absolutely no reason to continue funding failure. Drop-Out Recovery schools – whose mission, after all, is to graduate at-risk children – that manage to graduate only 1.2% of their students in 4 years do not deserve to stay open.
3) If a school district is required to adhere to certain standards, so should charter schools
For too long, school districts have had to jump through far more hoops than charter schools. The state should endeavor to ensure equity on this issue so that children in both systems are given a chance to succeed. The more successful the school, regardless of type, the more freedom it should have from state mandates.
4) Fund charter schools based on what it costs them to educate children, not the public school from where the children come
This is the fatal flaw of Ohio’s charter school funding system. The amounts used to estimate cost in traditional public schools are the amounts used to determine the costs in charter schools, even though the charters have far lower actuals. Charters that have no student transportation expenses and pay teachers 40% less than their traditional school counterparts do not have the same per pupil costs and should not be funded as though they did. The General Assembly should develop a funding formula that takes the lower costs of charters into account, and stops underfunding traditional public school students in order to send unjustifiable amounts to charters.
5) Eliminate the proposed voucher expansions
Clearly, the modest little program started in Cleveland during the 1996-97 school year has morphed into something so large that it is no longer recognizable. Ironically, the program’s limited scope was largely what allowed it to pass constitutional muster in 2002. By expanding eligibility to the upper middle class and the wealthy, to those already attending private schools, and to those whose public school districts are among the state’s best, Republicans may have pushed the voucher program beyond constitutionally-protected boundaries. At the very least, it is manifestly unfair to ask middle and low income Ohio taxpayers to subsidize private (and often religious) education for some of the state’s most economically comfortable families.
6) Don’t charge districts for students they never educated
The senate version of the budget recognized, for the first time, the inherent unfairness of giving money to private schools for the purpose of educating children who were never in public schools to begin with. Specifically, the senate bill sets aside $5 million to reimburse public school districts for money they lose through the Peterson Voucher Program for kids who did not attend the public school prior to receiving their vouchers.
While Innovation Ohio does not support private school vouchers at all, we believe basic fairness demands that public schools at least not lose state funding unless the child going to the private school at one time actually attended a public school. To accomplish this, the conference committee should adopt the senate bill’s Peterson Voucher policy – and extend it to all state voucher programs, including EdChoice, that deduct money from public school districts. There is no justification whatsoever for deducting money from public schools for children who were never public school students.
7) Fund mandates
Cutting Poverty Aid to its lowest level in 8 years, while simultaneously dictating how districts must spend those shrinking dollars, is worse than an unfunded mandate. It is a de-funded mandate. If districts will be forced to adhere to new spending requirements, then the money provided by the state should at least adequately fund those new requirements. It is clear that the amount in the senate bill does not.