One board member called charter schools 'charlatan schools.'
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city school board firmly rejected a proposal to sponsor Legacy Academy but conceded charter schools and vouchers will continue to pose a major threat to urban school systems.
"We must be very diligent in making sure that we have the best education system that we can," board President Lock P. Beachum Sr. said.
"If we don't, we're going to have a lot of new school buildings and nobody in them."
The board voted 6-0, with one abstention, not to sponsor Legacy as a charter school.
Legacy, with nearly 200 pupils on the city's South Side, opened as a charter school in October with sponsorship from the Lucas County Educational Service Center.
Charter schools are privately operated yet publicly funded schools that do not charge tuition and receive state and local funds.
The Ohio Department of Education maintains Lucas County ESC can't sponsor charter schools outside Lucas County, so the state has refused to fund Legacy. Legacy officials asked the city schools last week to fill in as sponsor.
Costs cited: In rejecting the proposal, the board said it would lose between $1,700 and $5,000 per Legacy pupil if it agreed to sponsorship.
Legacy officials were not immediately available to comment. They have said the school is operating on a shoestring budget, and pupils have said classrooms lack some textbooks, computers and other materials.
There are five charter schools in Youngstown enrolling more than 1,000 pupils, nearly all of whom otherwise would attend the city public schools.
Board member Tracey Winbush abstained from voting on Legacy because her employer is the lawyer who represents Legacy.
But after the vote, Winbush encouraged the board to develop ways to partner with charter schools in the future. Charter schools, she said, aren't going away, so the district should learn to work with them.
Opposing view: Other board members rejected the idea.
"We need not waste any time negotiating or debating or considering even a partnership with a charter school," board member John Maluso said.
Board member Gerri Sullivan called charter schools "charlatan schools."
Board member Terri O'Connor said that rather than partnering with charter schools, the city school district needs to focus on improving its own academic standing.
Beachum agreed, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Cleveland voucher case this week and the general opinion is that the court could rule vouchers constitutional.
"We must have the best product," he said. "If we don't have the best product, they're going to go somewhere else."