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We Must Reform Charter School Reform in Ohio!

By Dominque Warren
The Truth Contributor

Itís October in Ohio and we know that from the clanking of football pads, young ladies shopping for homecoming dresses, and parents trying to anticipate the support their kids need in their academic pursuits.

I remember, as if it was yesterday when I was a young teacher in Chicago, putting up posters, organizing desks and looking through yearbooks trying to memorize student faces and names.

As a district administrator in Baltimore, I struggled trying to fund all the necessary functions of a school with strained resources while still providing a high quality education to students who needed it the most.

Dominque Warren

In Ohio, local school districts every year face the realization that they will be over $300 million dollars short each year because their districts are losing funding to charter schools that have no elected school board or real accountability and who underperform in comparison with their traditional public school neighbors.

In the early 2000s, the State of Ohio and local school districts spent billions on rebuilding traditional public schools into 21st Century buildings. As a graduate of Scott High School in 2003, I remember the public hearings in which residents shared their hopes and dreams for education in this city.

Unbeknownst to many, a wave of school reform was taking place across the country where publicly-funded charter schools created by non-profits as well as for-profits sprang up to provide ďchoiceĒ for parents who were tired of underperforming public schools and limited curricular offerings.

In Ohio, we saw school enrollment decline from local school districts to charter schools with the promise that children would receive better educational opportunities.

In reality, we have a system of schools without elected school boards who can essentially open anywhere in the state as well as close in an instant without being held accountable and, in the case of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), commit fraud and cheat the state out of over $60 million by falsely increasing enrollment accounts.

No doubt there are successful charter schools and authorizers (entities that sponsor and oversee charters) in Ohio. The Toledo School for the Arts is an amazing charter with great results and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Columbus has been an authorizer that has received great accolades.

Even with those examples, in 2016 only five out of over 66 authorizers have been rated as Effective, with most receiving Poor ratings, and only 10 authorizers meet the standards for Quality Practices.

In 2010, Ohio was ranked sixth in education according to Education Week. In that time, we have seen the de-regulation of authorizers and the explosion of charters, specifically for-profit charters being placed in Ohio serving our most vulnerable children, typically black and brown youth.

Today, Ohio is ranked 23rd and continues to fall.

Who should hold these schools and authorizers accountable? Unlike school boards in Ohio, leaders of charter schools and their authorizers are unelected by the community. In fact, some are elected by a board of directors who have financial stake in the increased enrollment of the charter they oversee.

These issues are just part of many challenges that charter schools present such as lack of certified teachers, suspension and discipline disparities of students of color and low achievement scores.

Imagine a school of black and brown students where the board doesnít reflect the diversity of the school, and isnít responsive to parents and community members because they arenít elected.

This is the charter school challenge in Ohio. This disenfranchises communities and the students they serve. Ohio charter schools are here to stay, but our elected leaders at the state level can change whether we are holding them accountable and whether our local school districts continue to lose funding.

The time to change is now, because children canít wait for it to happen in the future. Will our leaders act on this? We shall see. They canít afford not to.



Copyright © 2017 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/12/17 20:54:38 -0700.

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