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Charter school questions



Published: Mon, June 11, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



We're confused by the Ohio General Assembly's blind love affair with the charter school movement.

It's not as if charter schools -- called community schools in Ohio -- have distinguished themselves as an alternative to the state's public schools -- at least not if the state's proficiency tests are to be believed. Charter schools scored far below even the worst public school systems in the state.

Meanwhile, the Akron Beacon Journal reported last week that The Life Skills Center of Akron was designed for about 297 pupils, but had an enrollment of 764 pupils in September. The key to fitting two students into the space of one: absenteeism.

Last October, the newspaper reported, a fourth of the pupils were absent at least 80 percent of the time. Which not only made room for more students, but provided a nice fringe benefit for the operators of the school, which received state and local tax dollars for all the students on its rolls, whether they were there or not.

And then there are the grossly under-regulated cyber schools that were established by county or local school districts after the state department of education rejected the Internet classroom plan submitted to it.

Time to slow down: Against this questionable backdrop, Ohio's voters might expect their elected representatives to begin pulling in their charter horns. They'd be wrong.

Last week, the Republican majority added a provision in the state budget bill that would require public schools to sell surplus buildings to charter schools We're confused, because we thought that charter schools were supposed to improve public education by injecting "competition."

Under what rules of competition is one competitor required to sell facilities to a rival? Would the General Assembly pass a law requiring General Motors to sell unused factories or showrooms to Ford? Of course not. That's not competition.

This "sell you must" initiative undercuts the competition claim. The awful proficiency test numbers undercut the demand for higher quality. It's time for the General Assembly's charter cheerleaders to further explain their community school agenda.




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