Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 22
October 25, 2006
Beware the Phantom (Revenue)
By Quentin Suffren
Charter Schools Not to Blame for DPS's Financial Woes
From the Front Lines
Columbus Sets Its Sights on KIPP
Quentin Suffren / October 25, 2006
If you think Halloween is spooky, consider what Ohioans will face on November 7th--a slew of new school levy and tax issues at the polls.
The Ohio Secretary of State's office has certified 145 levy issues statewide (see here) this coming election day. School districts deem their passage essential to maintaining current operating expenditures, including those for academic and extracurricular programs. Yet voters are skeptical of recurring pleas for more money. Just this past August, 22 of 31 school funding referendums (71 percent) failed to pass muster with voters.
Who can blame their skepticism? On average, districts request a new levy every four years. But few truly understand where the dollars go, as Ohio's education funding system is a patchwork of complex formulas and weighting calculations that only Dr. Frankenstein could love. There's one thing all voters should know, however: school levy votes, though at times a necessity, are too often an exercise in diminishing returns--except where state coffers are concerned.
In simplified terms, school district funds can be arranged into three stacks: federal dollars, state per-pupil allotments, and local tax dollars. When Ohioans pass a school levy, most believe that the increased funding will be dollars added to the local stack--above and beyond the more-or-less fixed values of the state and federal stacks.
In fact, voters are often replenishing a shrinking stack of state funds. That's because Ohio law prevents property tax revenues generated by voted levies from
There is much to be said that's critical of charter schools that's also true. But the allegation that charter schools are to blame for Dayton Public Schools' looming fiscal crisis (see here, here, and here) is false--and confuses symptoms with disease.
Charters did not and do not siphon district resources. Rather, parents and students have fled the district and into charters because of DPS's dismal academic record. For years, DPS languished in Academic Emergency--the state's lowest rating, akin to an "F" grade. Finally--just this year--the district jumped to Continuous Improvement, the equivalent of a "C" grade from the state, as a praiseworthy result of hard work by DPS teachers, staff, and district leadership (as well as the stiff competition provided by charter schools). Yet, despite these recent gains, the district's overall academic performance still places it near the bottom of regional and state rankings.
The district indeed faces financial challenges (as does every single charter school in town, all of them grievously underfunded!). But charters aren't the cause. In fact, they've buffered DPS against even worse fiscal grief.
How can that be?
Imagine that each child entering a DPS school arrives with a backpack of cash. That cash equals some $12,732 (using 2005 figures) and represents the full amount of taxpayer dollars for this child's education. Yet the money really consists of three stacks. One represents federal dollars (about $2,207); the second consists of state dollars ($5,766);
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz / October 25, 2006
It's no secret that Ohio needs more high-quality schools, especially for its poorest children. So why not shoot for the best--the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP)?
A coalition of business, philanthropic and district leaders in Columbus is asking that very question and working diligently to recruit this top-notch network of schools to Ohio's capital (see here). In September, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation submitted a formal proposal to KIPP on behalf of the coalition, which includes, in addition to Fordham, KidsOhio.org, Columbus Public Schools, the Columbus Partnership and School Choice Ohio. As a result, KIPP is considering opening a "cluster" of KIPP schools (two elementary, two middle, and one high school that would serve upwards of 1,500 students total) in Columbus over several years, beginning in 2008.
Coalition members are now in the final round of deliberations with KIPP, and a decision will be announced in November whether negotiations were successful. If the two sides can reach an agreement, Columbus will be one of two communities selected by KIPP for cluster schools. (KIPP plans to open these schools in two cities each year.)
As a nationally acclaimed "network" of 52 independently runs schools, KIPP has made significant academic gains with low-income students in some of the nation's toughest neighborhoods. Many consider KIPP to be among of the best programs for low-income students in the nation. While one in five low-income students in public schools make it to college, KIPP's
Martin Wooster / October 25, 2006
For years, common wisdom held that aside from textbooks, the business sector had little to offer the world of education. But scores of educational entrepreneurs are now proving this belief false.
How big is educational entrepreneurship? Adam Newman of Eduventures estimates that companies would sell $23.5 billion in goods and services to K-12 schools in 2005-06, a 4.6 percent increase from 2004-05. The largest market is the $9 billion textbook sector; the "smallest" (a "paltry" $3 billion ) but most dynamic market is that of "educational services," including teacher training, tutoring, and managing charters.
Robert Maranto and April Gresham Maranto catalog the entrepreneurs running charter schools, from cooperatives like EdVisions or the Sedona Charter School, and education management organizations such as Edison, to "clans" such as North Star Academy and the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). Clans like KIPP have achieved some of the greatest success, much of it due to their careful selection and extensive training of prospective teachers and principals.
Yet state policies can be serious hurdles to expanding quality schools and services, argues John E. Chubb of Edison Schools. Just three states allow education management organizations (EMOs) to hold school charters, and only a handful (Ohio included) allow non-profit charter sponsors to contract with EMOs for services. Other states prohibit single operators from creating school "clusters" (see above), where one group could operate a group of schools under one governing authority. Removing such restrictions could allow EMOs to provide