Last March, the Board of Education of the Woodridge Local Schools district in Ohio passed a resolution calling on policymakers to take steps to clean up its scandal-ridden $1 billion charter school sector. Now it is seeking more than $5 million from the state — money that was sent over the last 15 years to charters instead of traditional public schools.
Superintendent Walter Davis of Woodridge Local Schools — who brought the March resolution to the board — says he doesn’t actually expect the state to hand over the money. But he said the board is requesting the money from the state to underscore the frustration that educators have over the millions of dollars the state keeps giving to charter schools, money that then isn’t available for traditional public schools. In Ohio, charter schools are called “community schools.”
“What we are dealing with in Ohio is a system of charter schools that are failing, and the state continues to transfer local public funding from traditional public schools to support them,” Davis said in an interview.”We aren’t expecting a check, but we are doing it to call attention to how, year-in and year-out, money is being taken away from us to support these schools that traditionally have much lower academic achievement rates than we do.”
From the 2010-11 school year to 2014-15, Ohio’s funding for traditional public schools dropped by $515 million, he said.
How troubled is the Ohio charter sector? A June 2015 story by the Akron Beacon Journal said it found that Ohio charter schools appeared to have misspent public money “nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.” It said that “since 2001, state auditors have uncovered $27.3 million improperly spent by charter schools, many run by for-profit companies, enrolling thousands of children and producing academic results that rival the worst in the nation.”
Some $6,890 is transferred from the school district for each student who attends a charter school, said Deanna Levenger, chief financial officer for the school district. But the state only provides about $680 per child in basic education funding, with the rest coming from local revenues. That means that local money is being used to fund charters around the state, she said. Furthermore, Davis noted, the state pays brick-and-mortar charter schools the same amount per student as online charters even though online schools don’t have the same cost structure.
A few weeks ago, after repeated attempts, the Ohio legislature finally passed legislation that attempts to clean up the charter sector by placing more mandates on charter operators. But Davis said the measure does nothing to change the funding problems.
Here’s the invoice, showing how much money has been sent from the Woodridge district to charter schools from 2000-2015.