Early college academies form lobby group

Ohio’s public early college academies are combining forces to lobby the Ohio General Assembly for more cash to keep their innovative high-school programs afloat.

The schools lost big in the latest state budget. Faced with likely closure, if not this year then within the next two years, the nine big city high schools have formed the Ohio Early College Association to lobby state lawmakers for more money.

The schools want a few million back of a special $12 million state subsidy they had been receiving, figuring that with a little more state support they can garner donations and grants.

Early college academies are public college-prep high schools in Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Elyria, Lorain, Toledo, and Youngstown. The state, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have invested more than $40 million in these schools since 2003.

The schools offer an intense program to prepare at-risk, low-income, inner-city students for college success. Graduates leave school with college credit and some graduates can earn up to two years’ worth of credit.

Advocates think they have a case for a special dispensation at a time state lawmakers have needed to cut billions in state spending. Early-college graduates, usually from educationally underserved urban areas, have been showing on state tests they are better prepared than their counterparts in traditional inner city high schools.

“Some of our kids (attending the Dayton Early College Academy) have to walk through drug deals to get here,” said Tom Lasley, education dean at the University of Dayton. Lasley serves on the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA) board and heads the new lobby group.

DECA's $750,000-a-year state subsidy amounts to about a quarter of the school's budget and, without it, Lasley has predicted the school will eventually close. The Columbus Metro School lost an $800,000 subsidy.

DECA graduates are being recruited by colleges seeking to boost their minority student populations and early college grads are an obvious choice because they stand a better chance to succeed. “Of our 2008 graduating class, 100 percent went to college and 85 percent went back for their second year,” Lasley said.

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