We’ve been watching closely and studying the growing mob mentality shared by several local school boards in their effort to pressure the state and posture against public school choice.

As recently reported by Cleveland.com, "An invoice has been sent by the Westlake Board of Education to the Ohio Department of Education to recoup excess money redirected to charter schools since fiscal year 2003.

Westlake School Board President, Carol Winter complains

Westlake Ohio City School Board Meeting

Westlake Ohio City School Board Meeting

"The state legislature and our governor have really siphoned away a lot of money that would normally go to public schools to the charter school movement. -We don't believe that's fair... Research has yielded no evidence the charter school movement fixes anything that they say is wrong with education as a whole."

"This is not a stunt. Ultimately, we just want the state to make right by us.... The concept of creating competition isn't necessarily at fault... but the uneven playing field is."

In another report from The Chillicothe Gazette, "While the districts sending the invoices don't expect to see the funds show up in their bank accounts, they do hope their concerns are taken seriously."

Paint Valley Schools Superintendent Tim Winland blathers...

Paint Valley Superintendent, Tim Winland

Paint Valley Superintendent, Tim Winland

"The charter school industry — I call it an industry because they are in the business of profit unlike the public school system — is basically the Wild West. This whole industry is unregulated, they do not have to play by the same rules as the public school system.... 

According to the Gazette -Winland said he thinks there are people in the legislature, governor's office and ODE who want education privatized and that the way charter schools are treated "is calculated and purposeful to bring about the systematic demise of public education."

Throughout these reports, those responsible for improving public education in local districts make statement after statement clearly exposing their true motivation in the debate surrounding public school choice and what tactics they're willing to employ in driving their collective anti-choice agenda. Sadly and as per usual, we hear more whining, fear mongering and gross misrepresentations from these folks...... yet nothing about what these stunts and twisted demands for undeserved tax funding are doing to meet our state's public education needs

Money For Nothin'

At every turn, they're crying foul and painting their districts as victims to some sort of impropriety or even flat-out conspiracy. What's ironic is that these school boards are essentially asking to reimbursed for education that they didn't deliver.

Aside from being a massive waste of taxpayer time and resources, these school board actions amount to nothing more than a reckless, unfounded and somewhat childish protests 

In some cases, districts are sending invoices for over a decade of education that they still never delivered. What makes these claims even more preposterous is that during the time they claim to have been robbed of tax money they were due, they were actually still receiving some funding for students that had left their district to pursue a charter school option.  

5 Things They Don't Want You to Know About School Funding

  • Ohio’s School Funding Model provides state foundation funding to districts, so that when combined with local dollars, the education needs of all resident students are met, regardless of where they are educated. When a student transfers to a charter school, that student’s funds transfer to the school the child actually attends. Ohio law requires the transfer from the state foundation dollars.
  • After the transfer, the local district has less state dollars, but fewer students. The amount of local funds available remains the same, but is now distributed amongst fewer students, making up for the decreased state revenue. There is no additional cost to local taxpayers (and charter parents pay local property taxes, too).
  • But, this isn’t the full story. All districts – but no charters - get substantial funds from the state over and beyond foundation funding. In 2014, districts received nearly $1.1 billion in property tax rollbacks and homestead exemptions and another $470 million in Tangible Personal Property reimbursements (source: LSC Redbook).
  • When local school boards and Superintendents claim they only gets $XXXX per student compared to charters, it’s technically true if you only count foundation dollars, but they’re committing a sin of omission by not mentioning the millions in other state funds that their local district also receives even though they don't have the expense or responsibility of those students any longer. 
  • On average, students educated in traditional local school districts receive more in state and local funding than students that exit the district and go to a charter schools
fight over money

If any schools have a right to invoice the ODE for education funding they feel they've been shorted, it seems that the charter schools may have a legitimate case.

Divide & Conquer

You'll commonly hear the anti-choice camp refer to the support for public school choice as a "charter school movement." This mass generalization is done intentionally to divide and draw lines between those who fully and sometimes blindly subscribe to the traditional K-12 public school model and those who believe in having access to options and the right to choose what's best for each student.

This mass generalization as a fringe charter school movement is also done to diminish the importance of what has clearly been one of the greatest positive changes to the state's public education offering over the last 20 years. 

In extreme cases like with Superintendent Winland above, he drives the divide even further by attempting to connect the community behind public school choice with some sort of evil plan to "bring about the systematic demise of public education." Thankfully, for those kids and families who have benefitted from having access to the non-traditional options, we can't see the lines they're drawing. 

The idea that Ohioans can have choices and access to a K-12 school format best suited for the individual student's needs is not a new or radical concept. In fact, it's big, it's broad and it's wildly supported. With over 300 charter schools in Ohio breaking down into public/private & online/traditional formats, a plethora of configurations, shapes, sizes and specializations, there is mass acceptance supported by example after example of positive student outcomes. 

ECOT (The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) for example is a public charter eschool that started over 15 years ago and is currently educating 17,000+ students, graduating a couple few thousand a year and on and on and on. While those who intend to squash choice paint a school like ECOT as a fringe outlier that's stealing money from the local school district, the enrollment and graduation numbers tell a drastically different story. 

Truth Through The Noise

One of the tactic used by those opposed to public school choice is to spread myths, and misinformation when it comes to charters. Much of what I've read lately ranges from ridiculous spins of the truth to flat out lies.

They take non-applicable brick and mortar school performance measurement and truancy calculations... apples to orange apply them to online charters schools.... and then broadcast the bunk results in an attempt to paint the charters as failures.

Even after all these years of growing charter school enrollment and record numbers of graduates... ones that the local public schools left behind, they claim that charters are "unproven."  

And they falsely claim that there is no oversight of charter schools in the state. Charter schools are no stranger to accountability and oversight. In fact, traditional public school districts are subject to a fraction of the scrutiny and oversight that a charter receives from the state. 

Besides being the parent of a 4th year public charter eschool student, I am also hyper-exposed both local and national alternative school success from my role in building the new ECOT PALS community.  A core mission for ECOT PALS is to speak up and give a voice to those who have been largely marginalized in the public school choice debate. Our community is comprised of current students and past grads, parents/guardians, educators and other supporters who believe in and have experienced the wide range of benefits that choice brings to public education. The experiences our community share and positive student outcomes are indisputable. 

Our evidence is not a sponsored report, a politically bent analysis or necessary to drive more funding to our workplace. Our children and students are our evidence. These character witnesses walk and talk and demonstrate without doubt that charter school options address the needs for so many where traditional school options could not.

The anti-choice movement appears to want play with progress for our kids as if it's some sort of sporting match. On the other side, we're organizing in support of public education choice, options and the future. When time is invested to learn from the circumstances of why so many end up leaving traditional schools and choose charter school options, maybe then the local districts can learn from their past and rally with us to move public education forward. But something tells me it’s going to be awhile. I guess until then, we’ll just have to wait and watch what their next stunt will be.

ECOT PALS is a group of parents, alumni and supporters of public education choice in the State of Ohio who engage the legislature, press and public on issues affecting ECOT K-12 online school.

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