Suffering schools should learn to do more with less
As school levies fail across central Ohio, I am concerned and disappointed to see so many school districts quickly threaten to reduce the quality of our children’s education. Providing an excellent education for our children may be the single most important thing we can do as responsible citizens.
To give hope to our children in tough economic times, we must learn to do more with less. When I read the statement made by Westerville’s school-board president, “We’ll be looking at state-minimum requirements,” I lost confidence in the leadership of the district in which I live. As the operator of the Columbus Collegiate Academy, a charter school on the Near East Side, I run a school on a shoestring budget. Unlike traditional district schools, we don’t have access to local property-tax dollars.
When I see levies on the ballot, I can only dream about what we could do for our students, 94 percent of whom are minorities and 88 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged, with additional revenue. Although it is unlikely we ever will receive public revenue at the same level as others, we would never settle for providing our students with “state-minimum requirements.”
Instead of slighting our students with the bare minimum, we ask our teachers and administrators to do more with less. Our staff has stepped up and has been honored with a national EPIC award, placing us among the elite middle schools in the country. We also solicit the help of others.
We rally volunteers to help with landscaping, painting, cleaning and other tasks to save on costs. We reach out to foundations, corporations and individuals and have been fortunate enough to partner with the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Columbus Foundation, Commerce National Bank, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (our authorizer), hundreds of individuals and many others. Perhaps districts could learn from their charter-school counterparts.
JPMorgan Chase compassionately and generously supports our enrichment programs. The Columbus Foundation graciously invested in the future of our students by funding our high-school placement program.
Before we give our children the state-minimum requirements, let’s find every way to rally our community around education.
The real funding disparity in Ohio occurs in charter schools. Charter schools in Ohio serve a population of which 68 percent are minorities (districts statewide: 25 percent) and 67 percent are economically disadvantaged (districts statewide: 45 percent) because the majority of charter schools are located in the eight urban districts.
Despite serving a population of students that have been traditionally underserved in our country, we do it with a third less funding than traditional districts. The real outcry in school funding should be this often untold, separate and certainly unequal story that continues almost 60 years after Brown vs. Board of Education.
This post first appeared as a letter to the editor in the Columbus Dispatch.
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About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Chris Tessone was a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Director of Finance of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He has strong interests in governance and education finance, especially teacher compensation and school facilities finance.
May 23, 2013