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Education

Bill changes how charters are funded

Lake Local Schools object to state’s current method

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    Chambers

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    Carpenter

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Carpenter

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COLUMBUS — The Lake Local School District has sent the state a bill for nearly $2.1 million that it claims it has lost to finance charter schools over the last decade.

Treasurer Jeff Carpenter isn’t expecting a check from Ohio anytime soon. The district is unlikely to send another invoice.

“Why waste the postage? We’ve either made a statement, or we haven’t,” Mr. Carpenter said after a news conference Tuesday. He renewed the call on lawmakers to change how charter schools are funded.

A bill is pending in the General Assembly to halt the practice of deducting funds from local districts to send to online and brick-and-mortar charter schools some of their students attend.

The traditional schools would prefer the state directly fund charter schools with its own budget line item. Charter schools oppose this for fear a future governor, who does not support charter schools, could veto the funding.

Steve Dyer, a former state representative from Akron and current education policy fellow for Innovation Ohio, a liberal think tank, is optimistic about the bill’s chances.

“I think the House Bill 2 [charter school reform] vote was a big vote, a big deal,” he said. “The funding issue is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. ... The fact that legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle have publicly expressed a desire to fix this issue is a monster first step.”

House Bill 2, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich last fall, is designed to crack down on abuses by operators of failing charter schools as well as the schools themselves.

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Darlene Chambers, president and CEO of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said it defies logic for school districts to bill the state for education they didn’t provide, but a charter school did.

“The state funding formula for all public school students, including public charter schools, is determined by the Ohio legislature,” she said. “Charter schools, on average, receive only two-thirds the funding that traditional public schools receive. Further, many traditional school districts in Ohio do benefit from the existing funding formula because traditional districts do sponsor conversion charter schools in their districts.”

Lake Local passed a resolution in December noting that the Wood County district received $2,894 per student in state aid in 2015. 

But the state took $7,398 for each of the district’s students who chose to instead attend a charter school. The Lake Township trustees followed up with their own supporting resolution.

Fifty-one Lake students attend charter schools.

“We’re not against charter schools per se,” Mr. Carpenter said. “We have a number of kids who go to the Toledo School for the Performing Arts. It’s a wonderful place. Those kids thrive there. The school actually gets good ratings, as good as ours. …

“We have 15 charter schools that our kids go to,” he said. “More than half of them are either not rated, are on academic watch, [or] on academic emergency.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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