'Charter schools are not going to go away, and neither is Bishop Wagner,' one board member said.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The operators of Legacy Academy charter school want the city public school district to sign on as its sponsor in hopes of ending a tug-of-war with the state over funding.
"That would be a simple way to resolve this," said Percy Squire, the attorney representing Legacy Academy in three pending lawsuits.
But some school board members say they will adamantly oppose the proposal given the school district's history against charter schools and its bumpy past with Legacy.
"I don't feel we should have any further talks about this or waste any more time with this," board member Terri O'Connor said.
Meeting set: Bishop Norman Wagner, who leads the 175-student Legacy Academy on the city's South Side, was to meet with school board members tonight and propose the school district take over sponsorship of the academy.
Last summer, Lucas County Educational Service Center approved a charter school contract for Legacy Academy, and the school opened in October at Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church. Bishop Wagner is the church's pastor.
Charter schools are privately operated yet publicly funded schools that do not charge tuition and receive about $5,000 per pupil annually from the state.
State law allows only the Ohio Department of Education, Lucas County ESC, the University of Toledo and school districts in academic emergency to sponsor charter schools.
Lawsuit: In December, the city school board filed a lawsuit in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court claiming Lucas County ESC does not have the authority to sponsor charter schools outside Lucas County. The state education department agreed and withheld funds from Legacy.
Legacy has since filed two lawsuits against the state, claiming the education department pulled funding without due process.
With no state funding, Squire said Legacy's ability to remain open much longer may be in jeopardy.
"They've got a real crisis up there that needs to be addressed immediately," he said from his Columbus office.
Legacy is hoping the public schools can help by replacing Lucas County as sponsor, thus freeing up state funds. Because Youngstown is in academic emergency, it is eligible to sponsor charter schools.
School board President Lock P. Beachum Sr. said the board could vote on the measure today.
"I think we should as a board let Legacy know what we can and what we can't do," Beachum said.
Tracey Winbush, board vice president, said: "Charter schools are not going to go away, and neither is Bishop Wagner.
"I believe that we need to see if we can come up with some sort of negotiations where we can have a controlled charter school in our district, instead of having one that is chartered through the state and we have no control over."
Other charter schools: Four other charter schools in Youngstown are sponsored by the state.
Board member John Maluso said it's difficult understanding why the board would even consider sponsoring Legacy.
The board has stood strong against charter schools since they started five years ago because they siphon funding and students from the public schools, he said.
He also noted the district's past dealings with Mount Calvary, including a legal dispute over lease payments for the former Princeton Junior High School. Some board members claim the church still owes thousands of dollars.
"Our association has been anything but amicable," Maluso said.