Susie Kaeser, a long-time public school supporter and activist in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, just researched the way Ohio funds its public schools and siphons local as well as state funds away from public school districts to pay for children attending charter schools. She has published her conclusions in a local community paper, The Heights Observer.
Her lucid explanation is shocking. It is amazing what we can choose not to see and what the press continues to avoid pointing out.
“Each year the legislature determines the funding level for charter students and those in traditional public schools. According to a 2013 Department of Education report, the funding level for every charter student was set at $5,732. By contrast, state funding for traditional public school students is specific to the school district they attend, based on the property wealth of each district. Because I live in the Cleveland Heights–University Heights City School District, I thought I’d focus on its funding. According to CH-UH treasurer Scott Gainer, our per-pupil allocation in 2012–13 was $1,741, or just 30 percent of the amount promised to charter students.
“Not only do charter students receive more state funds than their public school peers, but the difference comes out of the per-pupil contributions for public school students. This is how it works. The state creates a pot of money for each school district that will pay for both charter and traditional students who reside in that district. While the state promised $5,732 to charter students living in Cleveland Heights, it only put $1,741 in the pot for each of those students. This is the same amount that is added to the pot for each of the 5,787 public school students who live in the district.
“When it is time to pay for charter students, the state subtracts the guaranteed amount—$5,732—for each student and sends it to their charter school. Public school kids get what is left. The $4,000 shortfall for each charter student comes out of what was put in the pot for the public school students. In 2012–13, about $2.5 million was sent to pay for 371 Heights charter school students, even though they only brought 30 percent of that money into the pot. In effect, traditional public school students subsidize 70 percent of the cost of charter school students.”
Kaeser also understands that traditional public schools are publicly owned, publicly operated, and publicly accountable, while in Ohio charter schools are poorly regulated. “Charter schools—no matter their quality—operate without adequate safeguards to protect public funds and undermine authentic public schools by draining away resources and children.”