Ohio

Eye on Education

Two Stories About Big-City Mayors Trying to Set Rules for Charter Schools

Columbus city skyline

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Over the past year, state legislators changed state law to allow charter schools in Ohio’s two biggest cities–Columbus and Cleveland–to receive local tax dollars.

That’s a big change: Before that point, Ohio charter schools did not directly receive local tax dollars. 

Here are two stories about how the change is playing out in Columbus and Cleveland.

Columbus

If Columbus voters approve a school levy this fall, some of the local tax dollars raised by the levy will go to charter schools. It’s part of a larger push by Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman to improve education in Columbus. And it was made possible by legislation passed earlier this year.

But it’s not like the local tax dollars will go to just any charter school in Columbus.

The city of Columbus is forming a group to set standards local charter schools must meet if they want to get local money.

The Columbus Dispatch reports:

The goal of the group is to develop education-performance standards for the Columbus City Schools and charter schools in the city. More important, it is Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s way of making charter schools more transparent, with the reward for meeting standards being public funding…

Council President Andrew J. Ginther said the group will be given until December to set standards because trying to do so in the six weeks before the November election isn’t enough time to study the best policies.

“We don’t want to rush this and come up with standards that don’t reflect our values,” he said. “ And we have no desire to partner with mediocre or low-performing charter schools.”

Cleveland

In Cleveland, the levy voters approved last fall sent $4 million to nine charter schools that chose to partner with the Cleveland school district.

The levy is part of Cleveland Major Frank Jackson’s efforts to improve city schools. Those efforts also includes successfully getting state legislators to pass laws allowing big changes to how the Cleveland schools operate.

Jackson thought that legislation would give his appointees to a board overseeing the Cleveland school reform plans more control over which charter schools could operate in Cleveland. But now Jackson says a loophole lets charter schools operate outside of that control.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

On Monday [Jackson] said he feels “burned” that his negotiations with legislative leaders over creating the Alliance left such a “gaping hole” in its authority.

Jackson pledged Monday night to push legislators, Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio Department of Education to adjust state law to give Jackson’s panel the power he thought it had…

And he and the Alliance said they will research all the intricacies of charter school law more carefully this time around so that nothing is missed.

“We won’t be burned again,” he said.

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