Will public common school students continue to be deprived of programs and services while state policy favors charter schools?

Will public common school students continue to be deprived of programs and services while state policy favors charter schools?


It took one hundred years to reduce the number of Ohio school districts from about 4,000 to 613. In about a decade over 300 “districts” have been added by the charter school movement. Reorganization of school districts as a means of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the public common school system was a state priority for a century. Now with the “choice” craze, the state constitutional goal of efficiency and effectiveness is cast to the winds.

Below is an Akron Beacon Journal article which illustrates the inherent inefficiency of essentially deconsolidating a school district.
Akron to add transportation for kids in charter schools after cuts to its own students
By Doug Livingston
Beacon Journal education writer

Published: September 20, 2013 – 11:18 PM

The Akron school board in its meeting Monday will consider spending an additional $300,000 to transport children not in its schools – charter school students that the state says it must bus.

The proposal comes just weeks after the district changed or shaved transportation for some of its own students to save $400,000.

Debra Foulk, executive director of business affairs for Akron schools, said there are five new charter schools this year and three others have relocated, requiring additions and adjustments to transportation services.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools, often run by for-profit companies. Parents who withdraw from Akron schools, where their children often are not eligible for busing, can send them to a charter, and Akron must transfer all public dollars to the new school plus provide busing.

“I have more miles to transport,” Foulk said Friday.

Foulk will recommend Monday that the board approve $262,000 for Petermann, a private bus contractor, for additional pickup and drop-off points as charter school options expand. In addition, she will propose up to $40,000 in Metro bus passes for 100 students at the Next Frontier Academy, a Copley Road charter school that opened late this year and is still attempting to fill its seats.

Akron has a fleet of 90 buses and contracts with private, for-profit bus companies for additional services. Last year, Petermann was hired to provide 23 buses to transport charter school students. Each bus was on the road five hours a day.

Petermann will need to purchase two additional buses plus increase the hours of use for 13 others to accommodate the charter schools, she said.

The irony is that while Akron will pay an additional $262,000, many charter schools solicit new families by advertising that they provide free transportation.

In August, Akron realigned its transportation services to save $400,000, eliminating some busing for Akron students that dated back to a decades-old desegregation plan. That service was made unnecessary with open enrollment. In addition, other students were moved to lower-cost transportation.

Most urban school districts have cut their transportation to the state minimum, picking up only students in kindergarten through eighth grade who live more than 2 miles from their local school.

The situation for traditional school districts has been worsened by the fact that the state in recent years canceled its program to help replace aging buses and state support for daily transportation operations has fallen far short of inflationary costs.

Meanwhile, as new charter schools open, Akron attempts to map out increasingly complex routes to ensure that no student is on the bus for longer than 90 minutes.

Most charter and private schools supply enrollment estimates by April so Akron can plan. When the Next Frontier Academy made a last-minute opening on Sept. 16, Akron elected to buy up to $40,000 in Metro passes, bringing the number of passes for charter school students up to 350.

The district considered asking Petermann to put another bus on the streets for Next Frontier’s seventh- and eighth-graders, but Metro tickets were a cheaper alternative to a “logistical challenge,” Foulk said.

“We truly try to trim it as much as we can,” she said.

Also see “Bus Driver” at http://www.ohio.com/editorial/editorials/bus-driver-1.431848

The new state report card shows that a large segment of the charter school experiment is a colossal failure.

It is unconscionable that state officials in Ohio keep defending failing charter schools.

These officials have even rejected the recommendation to form a commission to study the charter school movement.

Please use every means you have to share this example of ill-conceived state education policy.

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What can be done to level the playing field between charter schools and the public common school system and what public policies should the state apply to private schools that accept vouchers?


The state’s actions to shield charter schools from a plethora of statutes and regulations to which traditional school districts are subjected, have allowed charter schools to cloak their operations with thick darkness that thwarts transparency and accountability.  The charter school horse is out of the barn, but responsible use of the school district money that is extracted to support these private operations cries out for transparency and accountability.

However, more transparency and accountability are not enough.  The current education marketplace philosophy is that charter schools and traditional districts are competing.  Okay—then why not level the playing field completely?  If a state law or regulation is required for traditional school districts, then it should be applied to charter schools.  Why exempt a particular marketplace competitor from any law or regulation?

There is no rationale for charters to be exempt from the standards that teachers be highly qualified, (OTES-teacher evaluation system), audits of for-profit charter school management companies, budgeting and financial operations’ requirements, retention of school records, etc., etc.

Since the charter school movement has been hijacked by profiteers and other operators not focused on high quality education, all of the exemptions for charter schools should be eliminated immediately.  The State Auditor must be required to follow the public dollar wherever it flows.

State laws and regulations should follow voucher students to private schools.  Transparency and accountability must be attached to each tax dollar that flows to private schools by way of vouchers.  Those who advocate for the notion that public money should follow the student instead of flowing to the public common school system should also advocate for public scrutiny of the private education provider.

State officials must be held accountable to the citizens of Ohio for how they allocate tax dollars.  Personal ideology and campaign contributions should not thwart sound public policy.

Citizens will make appropriate decisions, including political ones, if they have the facts.  Of paramount importance is the common good—not the special interests of a few.

It is disheartening that public common school students are being deprived of essential educational programs and services, while for-profit charter companies, many of which are based out of Ohio, are making millions in profits.

It is urgent that the facts are shared by every conceivable means.  Ohioans, generally speaking, have been kept in the dark about the lack of accountability and transparency of privately-operated charter schools.

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Where is the outrage?


The Ohio public education community has been burdened with some ill-advised, senseless mandates, and less funding from the state for the public common schools; of great interest, however, is the uncanny silence within the public education community. Public education leaders at the state level, and education administrators and educators at the local level seem totally focused on ways to implement the mandates regardless of their merits. We, as an education community, seemingly, have lost the ability and fervor to be outraged by outrageous legislative actions. We seem to be intimidated by state officials who have lost their faith in the views of their constituents and submit to the whims of their party leaders and generous campaign contributors. We do not seem to resist outrageous mandates and conditions imposed upon us, apparently out of fear of retaliation.

Many of the recent “reforms”—unfair and unproven choice programs, undue and unreliable high stakes student testing, unwise and unwarranted A-F state report card, uncertain and unfunded third grade guarantee, unfit and untried parent trigger, untested and untenable teacher evaluation process—are imposed on the public common school community. The threat of being blacklisted seems to hang over any public school educator or administrator who questions these so-called “reforms”.

Some of these “reforms” are harmful to students, the public common school system, and democracy. These notions originated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Corporate America. The issue at hand is the privatization of the public common school. The strategy of the privatizers is to trash the traditional public system by heaping untenable demands on it. Who will stand up against those who view public education as a cash cow? Who will challenge state officials who reward campaign contributors with anti-public common school legislation? Who will demand high quality education for all students? First there must be some outrage.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

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Legislation will be introduced to create greater oversight on Ohio’s charter schools: Will the legislature and Governor have the moral courage to put it into law?

A Northeastern Ohio Senator has announced that he will be introducing legislation to create greater oversight in Ohio’s charter schools.  The goal of this legislation is to create uniform standards with the traditional public common school system.  Among the components of the legislation to be introduced are:


  • Require the state Auditor to do an annual audit of each charter school

  • Require charter schools to follow public records laws the same as traditional public schools

  • Prohibit charter schools from using taxpayer dollars for advertising, recruiting, or promotional materials


  • Ensure that charter school teachers are evaluated by the same methods as traditional public school teachers and that they are licensed the same and are paid equivalently

  • Require that upon a student’s transfer from one school to another, the report cards of both schools are given to the parents of that student

Uniform Standards

  • Require that schools follow the same course of study requirements, disciplinary standards, and that school board members abide by the same standards

This legislation is sorely needed.  A communication (below) from a Northeastern Ohio school superintendent, sent to the Department of Education, illustrates the need for this legislation.

Dr. Ross & Staff & Board of Education,

I hope you’ve all had time to relax this summer.   The reason I’m writing today is to share an experience I had this summer.

We were hiring an Assistant Principal, and had a candidate that we were ready to hire.  Like any good candidate he used our offer as leverage with his current employer – which was, and still is a Charter School in Parma.  When his boss, who he claims he has never met personally, got wind of our offer he raised the candidate’s salary substantially, and gave him a company car!  Needless to say he turned down our position the night before we were going to hire him.

I do not begrudge anyone for making a better situation for themselves.  What I do have a concern about is this Principal was, and remains in charge of a campus of only 160 kids!  Yet this charter school was able to offer a substantial monetary increase as well as a “company” car to him.  If we were to do anything similar with our public tax dollars here I’m quite sure there would be an uproar heard all the way down in Columbus.

So my question is – how do I compete with a “company” where there is no transparency to the public tax payer?  I understand that you may or may not answer this question.  I often hear how everyone in Columbus needs to hear from us in the field, and I will admit I was disappointed to not receive any correspondence from you with the emails I sent in the spring, but understand everyone is busy.   At the very least I wanted to bring this to your attention.

Thank you for everything you do on behalf of the students of Ohio.


This is not an isolated incident.  The charter school law in Ohio is egregiously flawed.  School districts are being financially ripped off and nearly all Ohio students are negatively affected by flagrant Ohio charter school laws.  The pivotal question is simply, “Will state officials have the moral courage to right this horrific wrong by legislating accountability, transparency and uniform standards or will they allow campaign contributions to keep their blinders on?”  The for-profit charter schools, in some cases, are snatching education funds from children.

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