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CHARTER SCHOOLS Group challenges cap raise



Published: Tue, April 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Youngstown schools will pay $18 million to charter schools this year.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

BOARDMAN -- The number of charter schools shouldn't be allowed to grow until the state establishes some kind of accountability standards, a statewide group contends.

The Coalition for Public Education has launched a campaign to urge the current cap on the number of privately run charter schools in the state remain intact. The coalition is composed of school board members, community groups and educators.

There are 213 such schools in Ohio.

Tom Mooney, coalition chairman, said at a news conference Monday at the Holiday Inn, that a House Republican caucus plan would allow 60 to 70 more charter schools over the next two years.

"The last thing we need, until the state finds a way to make the accountable for their results, is more charter schools," Mooney said.

According to an analysis by the coalition, pupils at Youngstown City Schools performed better on state proficiency tests than the pupils at all but one of the seven charter schools in Mahoning County. Eagle Heights Academy pupils performed slightly better on some tests that city school pupils.

Because state money follows pupils, public school systems lose money to the charter and community schools when their pupils attend the alternative schools.

Losing funds

Carolyn Funk, city schools treasurer, said that the district will lose $18 million this year to charter and community schools. That's about 18 percent of the total annual revenue. The district has lost about $70 million to charter schools over the five years they've been in existence, she said.

Public schools also are required to transport pupils within the district to charter schools.

Although urban schools are the most affected, other districts feel the strain too.

Austintown will lose $421,500 in state funding this year to charter schools, Boardman, $385,000, and Campbell, $305,000, coalition members said.

"It's an urban school issue, but it's not just an urban school issue," said William W. Leibensperger, secretary-treasurer of the statewide teachers union, the Ohio Education Association.

Mooney said that when the state proposed the charter school experiment, proponents touted the idea that if the schools didn't perform up to standards, they'd lose their charter. But that hasn't happened.

"No charter school has had their charter nonrenewed because of poor academic performance," he said.




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