‘Fair School Funding Plan’ Denies Participation of Thousands of Students Using School Choice Options

 

Two Ohio State Representatives, Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D- Jefferson), have worked for more than a year on a new public school funding plan. Named the “Fair School Funding Plan,” it funds public-school districts but not vouchers or charters.

School-choice options served almost 26,000 voucher students and more than 107,000 charter students in 2017-18. Based on the numbers from the last academic year, that means more than 130,000 students aren’t addressed in the new plan.

The representatives reached out to traditional districts to help them put their plan together. In addition to district superintendents and treasurers, the pair included organizations and individuals associated with the traditional education establishment, such as the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), Management Council – Ohio Education Computer Network (MCOECN), and Howard Fleeter, an education researcher for Ohio Education Policy Institute (OEPI), who has historically been opposed to charter schools in his research and commentaries.

Fleeter, owner of Fleeter & Associates, is a public policy consultant and researcher whose clients include the Ohio Department of Education, school districts, and other governmental and educational organizations such as Bill Gates’ Knowledge Works. His research encourages direct funding for charter schools, rather than what is called the “pass through” method that is currently used.

The Fair School Funding Plan adopts the idea of Fleeter and others to change the method of funding charter schools (called “community” schools in Ohio law). On page eighteen of the 27-page plan, the section entitled “Open Enrollment, Community Schools and Vouchers” states:

The Subgroup recommends that in the interest of efficiency and clarity students should be funded directly by the state at the school where they are enrolled and taught instead of their resident district. Students enrolled at a school other than the district of residence would be removed from the student count of their district of residence, and instead would be included in the count of the school they actually attend.”

There was no recommendation from the creators of the plan or the two traditional school district members who authored the charter and voucher section as to how school choice will be funded. Most charter and voucher proponents believe the current method is the safest to protect students and their options.

Dave Cash, president of Charter School Specialists, said that the legislators are working on an idea. “In conversations with Representatives Cupp and Patterson, they believe they have come up with a mechanism that will protect charters while providing direct funding. We are waiting to see the language and analyze it before we can say we’d support the change.”

Cupp and Patterson have discussed having additional meetings on their bill over the summer. If they add language for direct funding, they will also have to find the money. The current version of their bill costs more than the biennium budget provides for public schools. They will need to find the money for charters and vouchers above and beyond that.

State Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) told The Ohio Star, “These kids who take advantage of school choice options are not the wealthy, suburban kids with 2-parent households. They are the most vulnerable and most likely to drop out, they are special needs kids and children who’ve been bullied.”

“Until someone approves a plan for directly funding every public school student, like House Bill 102 from last session, the best method of ensuring choice for charter and voucher students is for their funds to pass through the districts in which they reside,” Brenner said. “I like the rest of their formula, but [school] choice absolutely has to be protected.”

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to bethlearreports@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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