A Letter to the Residents of His School District

Scott Mangas, superintendent of the Ottoville Local Schools, recently sent a letter explaining the debacle of the charter school industry to all of the residents in his school district.  Here is what he wrote:

Public dollars being used for “For Profit Private Charter Schools in OHIO!”

I felt that our community needed to be informed of the disservice that state legislatures are provoking on tax payers.  Putnam County Schools have not been as impacted directly by the Charter movement, but we still feel the loss of millions of dollars which are going to charter schools instead of public schools.  Below is an article to inform the public.  Dennis Smith, a former ODE consultant in the charter school office, wrote it:

Our community is proud of its public schools.  We can proudly say that they are our schools.  Yes, we own and govern them through our friends and neighbors whom we elect to our community school board.  Yes, we are indeed proud of our school system as it represents and is the core of our community.

In Ohio, there is another kind of school type that we need to learn more about.  This type of organization is called a “community” or “public” charter school.  But no matter what its name, is this type of school really a community school or a public school?

No.

Many people don’t think so and believe the use of the words community and public to describe a charter school are not only inaccurate but also misleading.  Here’s why:

1.  Charter schools are privately operated but publicly funded.  Since they’re privately operated, charters are exempt from 150 state laws that public schools must comply with as they serve a public purpose in a community setting.

2.  Our public schools are governed by our publicly elected school board, neighbors who are voted in office to serve us.  Charter schools have unelected boards that are hand-picked by the private school operator, and there is no legal requirement that these individuals even live in the community where the charter school is located, be elected by the public or the parents served by the school, or even be American citizens.

3.  Since most charter schools are run by for-profit management companies that are private enterprises, they are not obligated to disclose the salaries of the school leaders or of other employees of the school.

4.  Researchers around the country have shown that many charter school administrator salaries are much higher than school district superintendents.  In New York City, for example, the salaries for charter school administrators who are responsible for only a handful of schools are paid more than double the salary of the public school chancellor, who is responsible for nearly 1,600 schools. http:/www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/top-16-nyc-charter-school-execs-out-earn-chancellor-dennis-walcott-article-1.1497717

5.  Under Ohio law, there is no legal requirement for the charter school leader to have any kind of professional license or even a degree.

6.  The deductions for state financial aid for charter school students from a school district’s allocation exceed the amount per pupil of state aid going to that district, a fact documented in the Columbus Dispatch. Residents of public school districts whose children attend a local public school are being deprived of public tax dollars needed for public education in order to support privately operated and non-transparent charter schools. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/09/09/ohios-charter-schools-essentially-get-local-property-tax-money.html

7.  Not only do public school districts receive less state aid per pupil than charter schools, they must also provide transportation for charter students to their schools, an additional expense incurred by public school districts in order to support these privately operated schools.

8.  Many national studies have shown that charter schools normally serve a smaller percentage of students with special needs, children who require additional support at an increased cost per pupil.  Public schools, our community schools, are pledged to serve all children.

There is a new tool that allows school district residents to look up important data about the condition and performance of their community schools and compare that to charter schools.  Go to this website to find out more specific information: http://knowyourcharter.com/

As citizens look at these examples of how charter schools receive public tax dollars but otherwise operate freely due to 150 exemptions in state law that public school districts otherwise must follow, they are concerned about what kind of schools they really are.  Here is one important development that has been felt in Ohio.

In September 2015, the Washington Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling that was felt across the country, held that “taxpayer-funded charter schools are unconstitutional, reasoning that charters are not truly public schools because they aren’t governed by elected boards and therefore not accountable to voters.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/what-makes-a-public-school-public-washington-state-court-finds-charter-schools-unconstitutional/2015/09/08/706975c8-5632-11e5-8bb1-b488d231bba2_story.html

As residents of our school district learn more about charter schools, they may also come to the same conclusion as the justices of the Washington Supreme Court did a few months ago.  The schools in our district are public institutions owned by all of us.  They are our community schools, operated under all provisions of the state law.

A final thought:  If charter schools, operated by private companies with hand-picked boards that are unaccountable to Ohio citizens and are exempt from numerous state laws but still receive public tax dollars without voter approval, they are not public schools.  And if they’re not public schools, we should not be paying for them.

If you agree, start a conversation among your friends. After all, great schools make great communities.  After all, it’s about we the people who will administer and govern our community schools, not private companies who aren’t accountable to citizens.

In a word, that’s democracy.

Please contact your local representatives with your concerns.

Senate- Cliff Hite 1 Capitol Square, 1st Floor
Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 466-8150, email-“cliff Hite” chite@woh.rr.com

House of Representatives- Robert McColley, 77 S. High St, 11th Floor ,Columbus, OH 43215
Phone (614) 466-3760, email-  Rep81@ohiohouse.gov

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