State Board of Education Race Signals Possible Changes In Charter School Funding

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Ohio voters will be deciding on who will fill 7 seats for the 11-person Ohio Board of Education.

One of the districts with an open seat is the 8th district, which includes all or parts of 13 counties (including most of Athens County).

Deborah Cain, the current seat-holder, has been barred from running again due to term limits. Now, three candidates, all with some kind of experience in education, will be running for the open seat.

One of the candidates is former Plain Local School District teacher Kathleen Purdy. She told WOUB, that she has, “A great passion for helping create student success,” and feels that, “being a successful wife and mother would attribute greatly with being elected to this board.”

One major issue related to education in the state has been the recent allocation of funds to charter schools.

The state opened up 15 charter schools in 1998, in an aim to improve education in urban areas across the state. Today, there are over 300 charter schools in the state of Ohio.

Proponents see charter schools as an alternative path in education that allows students in low-income families to have more time in the classroom, while exhibiting talents in the arts and/or athletics.

Today that sentiment has changed.

Many critics have pointed out that many of the charter schools have underperformed, and that the money should go back to public schools instead.

Purdy agrees with the sentiment, saying, “As these [Charter] schools have increased in numbers, they use less standards than what is expected from public schools. Scandals and charges of unprofessional behavior seems to be another issues with some of these schools. They yet remain unpopular and many are wasting taxpayers' money.”

One of the others critics of charter school funding is another candidate for the 8th district, current state Representative Robert F. Hagan. Rep. Hagan told the Columbus Dispatch in an interview a few weeks ago that, “We’re looking for some turnover on the state board. They swing right and lean more towards charter schools than most states, and some of them [students] need to be taught to read a science book.”

Rep. Hagan sees that if the board swings in favor of Democrats, then funding will go back to the public school instead of charter schools (like the Republican-leaning board has been advocating).

School Choice Ohio stated that charter schools receive $5,745 per student from the state. Since charter schools in Ohio serve over 108,000 students, that means over $620 million is going to charter schools. The Ohio Department of Education expects about $9.3 billion to go to their school systems (from multiple sources) this year according to their website.

Charter schools performed much poorer than public schools last school year according to the 2013-2014 Ohio Report Cards. On the 120-point Performance Index used by the state, charter schools scored an average of 17.7 points lower than public schools. The difference was evident as public schools averaged a “C” on achievement tests, while charter schools averaged a “D.”

Urban area charter schools only showed either slight improvments or slight declines in performance when compared to their city's public school counterpart.

In the past few years, the Ohio Department of Education have made strides to shut down schools that perform poorly, but the process can take years and rack up a huge bill for taxpayers. The state of Ohio has shut down dozens of charter schools in the past year, but according to Attorney General Mike DeWine's office, the closures may cost up to $30 million for state taxpayers.

For now, many Ohioans will see how Governor John Kasich’s “Achievement Everywhere Plan,” works. This plan allows, “A funding formula that provides schools with the resources to help children achieve, regardless of where they live,” according to the Governor’s website. The goal is to have an even tax base for every student in the state, so funding is more even across the state. This will be achieved through adding another $1.2 billion in funds into Ohio’s education. The plan will go into effect sometime in the next year.

The Governor’s office sees the plan as a step in the right direction in funding schools fairly.

Tuesday’s election may mean more than just adding someone to the Ohio Board of Education; it may mark a change in how education (and its funding) will be appropriated in the state.