Poop plan eyed to pay for scholarships

AKRON, Ohio - Voters will decide Nov. 4 if leasing the city sewage system to a private contractor and using the money to finance college and technical-school scholarships for Akron public high-school grads is a good idea (see here).

Wits have dubbed the idea "stools for schools," according to the Associated Press's Thomas J. Sheeran. But Mayor Don Plusquellic said he's giving the city the straight poop when he estimates Akron, eventually, could realize $200 million from the idea (see here). The mayor believes the money could help arrest a "brain drain" of educated Akron residents from the city, which has suffered from the decline of the rubber industry and other manufacturing sectors.

The plan is a spinoff from programs such as one in Kalamazoo, Mich. (see here). The idea is to provide scholarships to students in the city to attend the University of Akron or an Akron trade or technical school with the idea they would remain in the community to work.

Participating schools would have to be in Akron and be approved by the city, Akron Service Director Rick Merolla told The Gadfly. Akron's city website indicates that district-school and parochial-school graduates would be eligible to participate (see here). Graduates of Akron school-district-sponsored charter high schools would be eligible. The city has one of those. He also said charters sponsored by non-profit groups might be eligible but graduates of so-called "for-profit" charters would not. So students at schools like Life Skills Center apparently wouldn't be covered. It's also unclear how students attending e-schools would be treated.

Excluding some charters is unfair and may be illegal, said the head of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "This somewhat mystifies me. There really is no such thing as a private charter school. There are district-run charter schools and there are charter schools that are run by non-profit boards," said William Sims, executive director for the group. "To discriminate among public schools, I would suggest, is unconstitutional. They are sometimes managed by for-profit or non-profit management companies but they are ultimately accountable to a non-profit board."

Graduates would have until they're 25 to take advantage of the program. Members of the military would have even longer, according to the Akron Beacon Journal (see here).

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