COLUMBUS – May 20, 2015 – In testimony today before members of the Ohio Senate Finance-Education Subcommittee, the Ohio Education Association said the current system of paying for students who choose to attend charter schools is unfair to too many school districts. Under the current “pass through” funding system, school districts are required to subsidize the difference between the full per-pupil charter school deduction ($5,800 in 2014-15) and the lower per-pupil state aid a district actually receives.
“The result is that local public schools must often subsidize charter school payments by either cutting services for students, tapping into local revenues, or both,” said OEA President Becky Higgins. “This is unfair and we ask lawmakers to remedy this situation.”
It’s estimated that local school districts and taxpayers subsidized approximately $250 million of the nearly $1 billion cost of charter schools in the 2014-15 school year. OEA urged legislators to find ways to fund charter schools so that students who choose to attend local public schools are not unfairly deprived of scarce resources. Relief could be provided to school districts by having the state directly fund charters or by limiting the money transferred from local districts to the amount of the state’s per-pupil share.
OEA supports SB 148, which it believes would make important progress on many, but not all, of the needed legislative fixes to the state’s broken charter school system.
OEA offered three principles that it believes should be part of comprehensive charter school reform: 1) accelerate the process for closing failing charter schools; 2) ensure that charter schools are subject to the same public records laws and financial transparency standards as any other public entity; and 3) fund charter schools in a way that doesn’t penalize traditional public schools.
Currently, too much local money is going to poor performing charters at the expense of the 90% of Ohio’s students that choose to attend local public schools.
OEA also agrees with concerns raised by the State Auditor about the school funding implications of the apparently growing problem of multiple statewide student identification numbers (SSIDs) being created for the same student. OEA supports the Auditor’s proposed solution that would allow the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to know the identity of the student behind each of these numbers so that charter schools are not paid more than once for the same student and to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks.
“Charter schools are paid based on student attendance,” said Higgins. “However, as noted by the Auditor, it has been demonstrated over the past several years, that the honor system for verifying student eligibility currently used in Ohio is open to abuse and needs to be fixed.”
The Ohio Education Association (ohea.org) represents 121,000 teachers, faculty members and support professionals in Ohio’s public schools, colleges and universities.
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