Charter Schools See Relief in Budget After Playing Defense for Decades


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Charter Schools in Ohio have been facing mounting regulations every year with very small, if any, spending increases since their creation in 1997. Charters, which are called “community schools” in Ohio law, are public schools with no legal access to local tax dollars. They are required to abide by some laws and exempt from others. The exemptions were expected to provide charters with greater flexibility and lower costs.

However, as opponents of school choice clamored for greater levels of “accountability” for the public charter schools, unfunded mandates began to increase. Republicans, once strong supporters of school choice, began introducing legislation that cracked down on schools, their sponsors and operators, also called management companies.

Until 2019.

A new Speaker, Larry Householder (R-Glenford), along with a key charter school supporter, State Representative Jamie Callender (R-Concord), joined with Senate members and stake holders in crafting one of the most pro-education and pro-charter budgets in history. “The Speaker is very supportive of school choice and allowed me to be active in that portion of the budget process,” Callender shared with The Ohio Star.

Generally speaking, charters receive two-thirds to half or fewer dollars than their district counterparts. Some charter schools receive only a third as much.

Comparing Per Pupil Revenue in Big 8 Districts to Charter Schools for FY2007 & FY2017
Big 8 District District Revenue 07 Charter Revenue 07 Difference in 2007 District Revenue 17 Charter Revenue 17 Difference in 2017
Akron $11,956 $9,113 $2,843 $17,786 $10,916 $6,870
Canton $11,081 $9,272 $1,809 $16,439 $10,960 $5,479
Cincinnati $13,477 $8,512 $4,965 $18,039 $9,896 $8,143
Cleveland $13,670 $9,427 $4,243 $21,917 $10,703 $11,214
Columbus $12,981 $8,780 $4,201 $19,136 $9,681 $9,455
Dayton $13,208 $7,948 $5,260 $22,284 $10,826 $11,458
Toledo $12,096 $8,515 $3,581 $19,156 $9,957 $9,199
Youngstown $14,342 $7,216 $7,126 $26,695 $11,581 $15,114

Other areas of funding also lag behind substantially including targeted assistance and facilities’ funding. Charters receive just one-fourth of the dollars appropriated for high-poverty students referred to as “targeted assistance.” This dollar amount saw no change in the budget. Neither did the foundation amount that is the primary funding source for these schools. It will be held at the same level for the next two school years as it was for 2018-19.

However, brick and mortar charter schools saw a bump in facilities funding from $200 per student to $250. Online schools, or e-schools, will continue to receive $25 per student.

Funding changes were insignificant in the budget. The policy changes were substantive.

Charter schools can be closed, and hundreds of them have been. The new graduation requirements and changes to the calculation for value-added will help all schools that are struggling to make the grade. Drop-out Prevention and Recovery Schools (DOPR) will benefit from both those changes, and also from the change to their closure law. DOPR schools now have to fail to meet standards for three out of three consecutive years to be shuttered.

The new closure timeframe for DOPR schools is also applicable to all charters who do not have majority of special needs students. Instead of failing to meet academic requirements for 2 out of the 3 most recent years, schools will have to fail academic standards 3 out of 3 consecutive years. And that change in policy is immediate, so it may affect schools that would have been on the closure list for the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

There were numerous other positive changes such as a new Quality Charter School initiative that will provide additional funding for “Community Schools of Quality” as defined in the law. “Effective” and “Exemplary” Sponsors will get a reprieve on the tens of thousands of documents they’re required to submit annually; the law now requires they be collected and sent to the Ohio Department of Education every three years instead. And charters get more flexibility to hire teachers, thanks to language in Governor Mike DeWine’s original budget that made it through to the final bill.

“We’re very pleased about the positive changes in the closure law and other areas that bring us closer to equity with district schools,” Ron Adler, President of the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education told The Ohio Star.

He added, “We are still grossly underfunded while serving the highest at-risk students in the state, but are encouraged that legislators and a new Governor appear to have finally noticed the positive difference these schools are making in the lives of high-poverty, mostly minority students who are often special needs, medically fragile, bullied or at risk of dropping out. OCQE looks forward to working with elected officials who care about these kids.”

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to [email protected].






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