Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 33
May 2, 2007
A Bargain for the Dayton Public Schools
By Quentin Suffren
BES Waiting to Invest in Ohio
Can't We All Just Get Along? (Apparently, yes.)
By Kristina Phillips-Schwartz , Quentin Suffren
Reviews and Analysis
Innovation in Indianapolis
Charter Schools and Strange Bedfellows
Quentin Suffren / May 2, 2007
With the Dayton Public Schools (DPS) levy vote just a week away, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding its fate (despite ours and other organizations’ endorsements). Like Ohio’s other big urban school districts, DPS’s efforts are complicated by history. The district has suffered from heavy enrollment losses--yes, some due to charter schools, but more due to an overall decline in Dayton’s population. Couple these losses with a long shadow of poor academic performance (one that is happily receding), and deep skepticism from citizens about district efficiency, and the result is a make-or-break levy to cover a $24 million deficit in 2007-08, and even greater projected shortfalls in years to come.
Despite these challenges, the Dayton Public Schools, like other urban districts, has managed to accumulate a considerable surplus of wealth in one area: school facilities. Thanks to state and local contributions totaling over half a billion dollars, new school construction has taken off in the area, leaving a trail of empty school buildings in its wake, and making veritable land (or building) barons out of DPS. Almost two dozen are listed “in transition” or possibly lying fallow with limited or uncertain futures. This number is sure to climb as new construction is completed.
At a recent rally for school choice in Dayton, House Speaker Jon Husted was asked about his support for the upcoming DPS levy. In response, he noted the district’s surplus of facilities and
May 2, 2007
Ohio’s children need more high quality educational options. We at Building Excellent Schools (BES) want the opportunity to work in Ohio, training leaders to found strong charter schools. This would seem a match made in heaven, right? Yet if Ohio Governor Ted Strickland had his way, the number of new Building Excellent Schools Fellow-founded schools, or other effective charter models for that matter, opening in Ohio in 2007 will be zero. In 2008, it will be zero. In fact, under the governor’s plan, a new charter school could not open until July 2009--regardless of its quality.
Fortunately, the Ohio House of Representatives has offered a reprieve from such drastic action with its version of the state budget bill. In place of a moratorium, it would increase penalties for low-performing schools (whether academically or fiscally) while still allowing high-performing models to open and/or replicate in the state. At Building Excellent Schools we wholeheartedly encourage any efforts to bring quality and accountability to charter schools and public education in general. One example of the former is Columbus Collegiate Academy, a Building Excellent Schools Fellow-Founded school seeking to open in 2008.
In August 2006, Andrew Boy (already an accomplished educator in Ohio) began a Building Excellent Schools Fellowship with a vision for opening Columbus Collegiate Academy, an urban middle school seeking to prepare students academically for the collegiate
Comity in the House
In a rare show of admirable bi-partisanship and compromise, Ohio House members passed a $52 billion spending plan (Amend Sub. HB 119) with relative ease--even after several weeks of intense deliberation. (Not to mention hours of passionate testimony from parents, students and school leaders seeking to sway lawmakers on the issue of school choice.) Despite the initial gravel-banging scene at the bill’s first hearing, the House’s version sailed through the House Finance & Appropriations Committee Saturday night with a 31-0 vote, followed by a 97-0 vote on the House floor. The quick passage came as a shock to many who anticipated heated partisan bickering to dominate as the House deliberated on the first budget delivered by a Democratic Governor in nearly two decades. Major changes and additions to the governor’s bill include, among others:
- Replacing the governor’s proposed moratorium on new charter schools with language permitting new schools to open if they contract with an operator running schools rated in Continuous Improvement or better (the equivalent of a “C” rating) in Ohio or other states;
- Reinstating the EdChoice Scholarship Program (which had been eliminated by the Governor)--and adding a Special Education Scholarship Pilot Program, which would provide scholarships for disabled children in grades K-12 to attend alternative public or private special education programs in fiscal years 2008 through 2013;
- Increasing the amount of funding to be provided for the Early
Terry Ryan / May 2, 2007
In spite of the contentious debate over charter schools in Columbus, there are emerging opportunities for cities in the Buckeye State to pursue and implement innovative strategies and practices made available by the charter option (see above).
One such innovative practice involves mayors assuming control of schools and school districts from traditional school boards. In Cincinnati, there is talk (how serious remains to be seen) about empowering Mayor Mark Mallory to take over the operations of the Cincinnati Public Schools, by replacing its elected board with mayoral appointees (see here). Precedence for such takeovers exists in cities like Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC. Yet before wading in too deep, interested mayors (or mayoral aspirants) should look seriously at Indianapolis for ideas on how a mayor can use his or her office to improve education.
In 2001, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson birthed that city’s charter school program by persuading legislators to let him function as its sponsor (the organization that “licenses” charter schools to operate and ultimately holds them responsible for results). Since then, the mayor’s charter portfolio has grown to 16 schools serving 4,000 students, and these schools have put serious pressure on the Indianapolis Public Schools to improve their performance. Mayor Peterson’s schools are good schools, too. Indeed, Indianapolis charters have seen their students’ passage rates on state achievement tests outpace the statewide average. Several of them, such as KIPP Indianapolis College Prep, can
May 2, 2007
Who knew that National Charter Schools Week could bring President George W. Bush and Senator Hillary Clinton together? President Bush issued an official proclamation designating April 29 - May 5, 2007 as National Charter Schools Week. And Senator Clinton introduced a resolution in the United States Senate praising charter school leaders, teachers, students and parents for their contributions to U.S. education.