Charter school advocates are expressing concern about the bi-partisan “Fair School Funding” plan. House Bill 305 was introduced in late June by Representatives Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson). President of the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education (OCQE), Ron Adler, commented to The Ohio Star, “There is nothing ‘fair’ about the funding charters are receiving in HB 305.”
In the The Columbus Dispatch last Friday one school funding analyst, Howard Fleeter, told the paper the legislation, “does not go far enough in closing the equity gap between wealthier and less wealthy districts in Ohio.”
Adler agrees there are significant funding issues, but he’s looking specifically at the lack of funding for charter schools and the elimination of that limited funding’s protection, known as the “pass through.”
His organization published their own article Monday, and shared a copy with The Ohio Star, entitled “Are poor minority students in charters losing again in the new school funding plan?”
The author of OCQE’s piece is Richard Lukich, President of Constellation Schools, who oversees a group of fifteen charter schools scattered throughout northeastern Ohio. Lukich expressed his views of House Bill 305 and the information provided by the The Dispatch.
“The September 5th Columbus Dispatch article, ‘Ohio school-funding plan still shortchanges poor districts,’ misses the most disappointing aspect of the Cupp-Patterson House Bill 305,” Lukich wrote. “There is absolutely no effort in this bill to provide equitable funding for the tens-of-thousands of students attending Ohio’s public charter schools.”
The analysis of the bill describes the new funding for charters, called “community schools” in Ohio law, as follows: “For community and STEM schools, the [new funding] system specifies a set base cost per pupil. These schools receive a payment for each student of that base cost per pupil plus per-pupil amounts of special education funds, economically disadvantaged funds, English learner funds, and career-technical education funding.”
Changes to the new funding system require charters to receive direct funding from the Department of Education. The current systems requires the money to go to the district where the charter student would attend based upon their residence, then “pass through” that district to the charter school of the student’s choice. The money sent to the charter can only come from state dollars; no local tax money may follow a school-choice student.
The bill creates a new system of paying for traditional district schools, but for charters it simply designates a base payment of $6,179 in FY 2020 to $6,338 in FY 2021 plus potential add-ons. No funds are scheduled beyond that time frame, but the analysis of the bill, “Specifies that the Department must evaluate the cost of operating community schools on a per-pupil or other reasonable basis as a replacement for the discontinuance of a fixed per pupil formula amount.”
Cleveland Municipal, the district where a considerable number of the Constellation Schools are located, averaged total per pupil revenue of $21,689.19 in FY 18. Broken down into just state and local tax dollars, that’s $12,251.03 and $6,211.56 respectively. Combined it is nearly triple what charters are being promised. Nearby Youngstown City School District received $25,838.82 per pupil.
“Clearly there’s a huge disparity in what public school students in charters are receiving versus what public school students in failing district schools get,” Adler lamented. “HB 305 does not improve things – it makes them worse. Not only is there no plan to fund charters, without the ‘pass through’ method of funding through the districts, charters are just a line item veto away from extinction.”
“It baffles me as to why our state legislators place so little value on Ohio’s children attending these alternative public schools. Are they really only worth 60% as compared to a child attending a failing traditional urban school?” Lukich queried.
Lukich warned legislators who profess to support school choice and are considering support for HB 305. “Ohio’s General Assembly needs to keep in mind that if they continue under-funding and over-regulating Ohio’s public charter schools, that they will have accomplished what the teacher unions failed to do over the past two decades – put these free-market schools out of business.”
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Photo “Student Assembly” by AHealthierMI CC2.0