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Schools question rules for funding

Published: Mon, January 26, 2009 @ 12:26 a.m.

By Denise Dick

Community schooling costs public districts in Ohio hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

BOARDMAN — Suburban school district officials say they don’t object to competition; they just think it should be staged on a level playing field.

The funding — as well as some requirements — for public schools, though, is different from funding for community schools, say Boardman schools Superintendent Frank Lazzeri and Treasurer Richard Santilli.

Local taxpayers bear the brunt, they add.

“We’re meeting state standards. We’re doing what we’re supposed to do, and we’re being penalized,” Santilli said.

Last year, the Boardman district lost $693,405 to 14 community schools. That number has increased to about $810,500. An additional $196,000 was lost through open enrollment, in which pupils opt to leave their home district to attend another district that agrees to accept them.

There are 332 community schools in Ohio. In the 2006-07 school year, more than half of community schools statewide were in academic watch or emergency.

Boardman, on the other hand, has maintained an excellent rating on its state report card for the last two years.

The state provides a per-pupil funding of $5,732, but that amount is substantially decreased for public school districts based on local property valuation.

A local property charge-off per pupil, based on local property valuation, is nearly $4,658. After that reduction, the amount the district receives from the state per regular education pupil is about $1,143.

There is no local property charge-off for community schools though. Community schools in Boardman receive $5,732 per regular education pupil.

“It’s the local taxpayers that pay the difference,” Santilli said. “I don’t think most people realize that.”

The lower the percentage of state aid received by a district, the higher the percentage of local taxes that cover the difference.

In Boardman’s case, the district receives about $1,200 in state basic aid while the $4,589 difference must be made up from local funds that come from taxpayers.

“We have no problem with competition,” Lazzeri said. “We just want a level playing field for funding.”

Ron F. Adler, president of the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, a pro-community schools group, doesn’t buy the argument that community schools receive funding without accountability.

“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” he said.

Part of the legislation regulating community schools requires that a community school that doesn’t meet specified academic requirements for three years be shut down, Adler said.

“There are over 300 public district schools in academic watch or emergency and there’s no consequences or penalties,” he said.

Penalties imposed by the state on public school districts that don’t achieve standards for several consecutive years may include removal of personnel, however.

Community schools also are subject to a higher standard fiscally, Adler said.

If a public community school is suffering from fiscal problems, it must notify the state and “all state funding will be stopped,” he said.

Public school districts, on the other hand, that suffer financial strain are declared in fiscal emergency, and an oversight commission is appointed by the state, Adler said.

The Ohio General Assembly approved legislation creating community schools because lawmakers were tired of putting billions of dollars into schools that weren’t performing, Adler said.

“There was no competition, no choice and no incentive to change,” he said.

Community schools offer options for pupils in districts that don’t perform well, as well for those who may not be comfortable in a public school setting.

“Parents should have the right to pick what school they want their child to go to,” Adler said.

But somebody has to pay for their education and that ends up being local taxpayers such as those in Boardman and Lordstown, Santilli said.

Like Boardman school officials, Dr. Robert Zorn, Poland schools superintendent, believes discrepancies exist between his school district’s state funding compared to community schools. For 2007-08, Poland lost 26 kids and $171,602 to seven community schools.

Poland gets about $2,107 per pupil in state funding because of the charge-off while community schools get the standard $5,732 per pupil.

It’s even worse for Lordstown.

Mark Ferrara, that district’s treasurer, said the district received no state money per pupil because of high property valuation in Lordstown.

“They say the money that supports community school is state money, but if I’m getting zero dollars per pupil, it’s my taxpayers who are paying,” Ferrara said.

Community schools were created in the late 1990s by the state Legislature. The action wasn’t approved by voters.

The idea was to provide an alternative to pupils in districts that weren’t performing well, said Doug Heuer, Austintown schools superintendent.

This year, 145 pupils from the Austintown district are attending community schools amounting to a loss of about $790,000 for Austintown. That’s up from 105 the previous year, when Austintown lost nearly $766,000 to 20 community schools.

“Austintown students attended 19 different community schools last year,” Heuer said.

Of those community schools, the highest state rating was continuous improvement.

“Most are in academic watch and a few are in academic emergency,” the Austintown superintendent said. “All Austintown schools are rated excellent or effective.”

As a way to cope with the loss of funding, Austintown opted to adopt an open enrollment policy, accepting nondistrict pupils, beginning next school year.

Heuer says he recognizes that the idea of competition isn’t going away.

“I just wish they would change one thing,” he said. “If a student chooses to go to a different school [either through open enrollment or community school], allow them to go, but allow the money to go with them only if they’re going to a better rated school.”

If the pupil is leaving a school to attend one with a poorer rating, Heuer notes, they’re not going for the reason that the Legislature intended.

Area school district officials have met with local legislators voicing their concerns, but Santilli urges residents who believe the community school system is unfair to public schools to contact their legislators and ask questions.

The funding discrepancy for special-education pupils is even larger. There are several categories for special education with different funding amounts.

For about 569 special-education pupils, Boardman receives $492,629. For about 24 special-education pupils from Boardman, community schools receive $234,956.

According to the district’s calculations, the district would receive $5,774 in state funding for a special-education pupil who is autistic. If the pupil would enroll in a community school, that school would receive $24,381.

Most of the community schools in Ohio are for-profit, and Lazzeri and Santilli believe that making money is their main focus.

Zorn also questions how many community schools would continue to operate if the funding system were changed and they received the same amount per pupil as local districts.

While public school districts must maintain multiple buildings, community schools aren’t burdened by those costs, Lazzeri said.

“We have to pay our bills and go to the taxpayers when our electric bill goes up,” he said.



1LB(22 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Is anybody asking the parents WHY they are removing their children from the excellent rated Boardman and Austintown Schools? Must be a reason...
And why should parents who pay property taxes in that community, who want their children to go to a different school (what ever the reason) pay extra money to the different school? Whether the child goes to the Local School system or not, the child lives in that district and it is the Districts's responsibility to pay for the child's education.

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2scrooge(563 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Seems the easiest fix it to give the community schools exactly what the state gives the public school. It's evident that the legislature wants nothing to do with school funding. After being deemed unconstitutional several years ago I don't know that any new plan was formulated to fund schools. Sort of like Social security on the federal level, everyone knows there's a problem, but nobody has the intellegience to try to correct it.

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3Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Adler, the charter school public relations spokesman, is a bald faced liar. His comments today prove it again. Although there ARE laws that should shut down academically failing and fiscally irresponsible charter schools, this consequence has never been carried out. Eagle Heights has been through a string of sponsors because their books are repeatedly "unauditible" AND has had failing state report cards for the last ten years.
Summit Academy is supposed to close due to poor performance, however, their administrators have told their families, and their Church landlords not to worry. "We will just change our name, and be allowed to go on," is their message.

Taxpayers need to realize that not enough children leave for a charter school at any particular grade for the public school to be able to close a class, and save the amount of money it is losing. The public school must maintain the same facility while losing thousands of dollars in tuition.

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4Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Parents like the poster, LB, above, need to realize that the tax base is not a fairy godmother. Historically, Ohio taxpayers have always provided for a school in each township. Parents have always been free to choose another, by paying for it themselves. The public school is always there for the parent, unless they turn their back on the help.
69 school choices in one township? And transportation provided at taxpayer expense for charter schools? Sorry, LB, grow up.
The taxpayers provide a road too, but we won't build a private one just for you. If you don't like your township firestation, fine, don't call it. Nobody's making you use any township service, but don't expect taxpayers to be responsible for your every want. Don't you have a grandmother?

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5Bunchobull(6 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Hey Education_Voter, how about the municipal schools who have continually had a failing grade for the past 10 years? How come the municipal school system is allowed to continue? The failed municipal schools should be shut down don't you agree? They also waste tax dollars and shortchange the students. When has there ever been a municipal school shut down because of bad performance? Never. But that is apparently ok with you.

Charter schools are public schools.

Charter schools do not take money away from municipal schools. The state money follows the student. The municipal schools are no longer educating the charter school student. The municipal schools now have less of a student population.

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6Bunchobull(6 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago


Here you go Education_Voter, why don't you work to shut down this dismal municipal school system. They met only 1 out of 30 state indicators. Talk about a waste of taxpayer monies let alone the children being left behind. Lets scrap the whole thing and privatize each school. Then it would be much easier to target the individual failing schools. Or do you feel that its ok for the municipal school system to continue to be compensated by the taxpayer?

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7Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Refer to the article:
The amount the Boardman receives from the state per regular education pupil is about $1,143.

There is no local property charge-off for community schools though. Community schools in Boardman receive $5,732 per regular education pupil.

“It’s the local taxpayers that pay the difference,” Santilli said.

AND the rationale given for allowing charter schools ten years ago was that their innovative methods would produce improved achievement in comparison to public schools. In ten years, they have not done this.

Some posters ask about "Municipal Schools", by which I think they may mean Youngstown and Warren, or perhaps the cities of Campbell and Struthers as well. In any case, all have a better record of performance than the charter schools. Despite this, Youngstown has been dealt a number of punitive measures, including letters sent to parents informing them of choices including free Catholic school tuition, required expensive intervention programs, required professional development for teachers, restructuring of schools, state oversight commissions etc.

Remember, it was the charter schools who said they could do better, no matter the population. Now they want to say scores don't matter. They are trying to sell their programs as alternative welcoming environments, etc. Why? Because Ohio versions of charter schools have been a scandal equal to those on Wall Street.

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8Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

I guess charter schools ARE immune to state laws. Let's compare apples to apples.

Two schools, both on Youngstown's east side. M.L. King,(North) under punitive effects from supposed poor performance -- public school.

Youngstown Academy of Excellence (old Roosevelt)--Charter School, which received $1,613,825 of the public school's funding (one of the punitive effects)
Percent of passing students:
Youngstown Academy of Excellence
3rd Grade

4th Grade

M.L. King (North)
Third Grade

4th Grade

I could make the same comparison with Eagle Heights, or Legacy, etc. and the public schools.

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9Bunchobull(6 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

The article was biased and incomplete. Sorry but the reporter left out some pertinent information and made her reporting side with the municipal schools.

But there is some good news from the Gov's proposed school plan:

Give more authority to school boards to dismiss teachers for just cause. Strickland stated “right now, it's harder to dismiss a teacher than any other public employee. Under my plan, we will give administrators the power to dismiss teachers for good cause, the same standard applied to other public employees.” School teachers, beware, your Gov. has spoken.

Allow the state to shut down school districts that repeatedly fail to meet state standards. Wow! I wonder if the Youngstown school system will be one of the first to go? For all you school administrators who are part of a failed school district, you may be looking for a new line of employment if the Gov. gets his way.

And by the way Education_Voter, you dodged the question concerning the municipal school system - should continually failing municipal school systems be allowed to continue operations? Or does accountability only apply to charter schools?

Sorry, but it is truly the failed municipal school districts - those who have continually failed from the start of the state grading system in 1999 are the scandalous ones, not the charter schools.

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10Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

I have to agree with Metz, here. Districts already have avenues to fire teachers with just cause, and have done so. I think about 4 teachers were dismissed in Warren, two in Boardman, and two or three in Youngstown. The state also already has laws to revoke the authority of school systems.

I have never heard a school district referred to as "municipal", but if you mean the City Schools, it is unfair to categorize them as "failing", especially if you are grading them in comparison to charter schools.

The fact is that Governor Strickland did not have the courage to address the segregation in our area that leaves Youngstown, Warren, and Campbell with the reponsibility of educating 85% of the poor and minority students in the Valley, while allowing all white, all affluent districts to skate along, claiming excellence in teaching performance.

With poverty comes a documented increase in learning disablilities, behavior issues, frequent moving and homelessness, family issues, and health issues which leaves each city school teacher with a sheaf of intervention concerns (and paperwork) unknown in some of our districts.

The current "school report card" requires schools to achieve "adequate yearly progress", a "No Child Left Behind" term that means the public schools have improved performance each year with the goal 100% of students passing the test. Any statistician will tell you this will never happen. "Average" refers to a midpoint of scores, so half the children will always be below average. For example, what if we had a law that required communities to reach 100% full time employment?
Public schools are not "failing". It's ridiculous to categorize schools such as Kirkmere, which took on the student body of Cleveland Elementary, as "failing" because they could not raise a 65% passage rate to 75% in one year.

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11Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Hmmm. Maybe Bunchobull uses these unfamiliar terms because he is one of these charter school "carpet-baggers", here to make a profit skimmed off of our schools.

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12hellsbells(116 comments)posted 7 years, 6 months ago

Only in America would we conduct an experiment that's probably used hundreds of millions of dollars in Ohio to prove that the achievement problems of a child who is growing up rough in a rough neighborhood, and going to a school in which all the other students are the same IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE SCHOOL. Make that the overwhelmed school.
Look this problem exists all over the world.
Here in the valley, students at Eagle Heights Charter School score about the same as students at Williamson down the block. Move outward to Kirkmere or P.C. Bunn and you'll get scores twice as high (and more of a mix of student backgrounds). Outward a little more to Austintown, even better scores. (Now the mix is tipping toward middle class students.) Out again to Canfield: no problem. (No mix either -- pretty much all affluent.)

Couldn't we have discovered this without spending so much? Ten years ago, free market fanatics led the legislature to believe that just adding the element of profit would cause someone to come up with a miracle idea. Nope. It's just steady hard work to improve achievement.

My vote? Go back to public schools. Let people who want other options pay their own bill.

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13hellsbells(116 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

STEP 1: If you are an Ohio taxpayer, contact your representatives about the waste to charter schools. Look Youngstown is a small community compared to Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Dayton. So multiply YCS's losses by 8 or 10 for the total losses for Ohio's school districts. Hundreds of millions in one year! The Plain Deal says about 1 and a half BILLION in the last decade.

All because David Brennan had an idea to make money.

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14Bunchobull(6 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Municipal: Pertaining to city government, as opposed to state or national government.

Sorry you can't understand these apparent big words. I'll stick with "city" as you understand the term better.

So what to do with the failing city school districts. Spend more money? No, that would be a waste. How about regionalizing within counties and allowing the poor urban...(oops, I meant city). Let me rephrase this - allowing the poor city kids to attend the excellent suburban schools. Yeah, that would be great. We can diversify Ohio. The integration of the poor kids with the well off kids should even the education playing field.

Charter schools do not take away money from the city schools. The students who attend charter schools are not educated by the city schools. In fact, the city schools now have fewer students to educate. The proportion is equal, less students mean less money. Funny how you keep forgetting that little detail. In theory, the city schools should be able to downsize their teacher population. Just think of the money that could be saved!

I see the name calling has begun. Keep displaying your character Education_Voter. By the way would you happen to be a city or suburban school teacher?

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15scrooge(563 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like what you all are advocating is the bussing that went on back in the 60-70s. That didn't work then, and it won't work now. The family structure is what helps the education. Have a 2 parent family and you usually will get better test results from your children. Poor, minority, urban - all statistically where the broken/single parent families are. Money doesn't make you learn, Color doesn't make you learn. The desire and the disipline to learn come from the family values.
Throwing more money at the school system will not fix the problem either. The city schools usually rank the highest in per-pupil expenses with some of the lowest test scores.

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16Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

What I am, is an actual resident of this area -- here to stay.
And so I care about our institutions, our community, and our children. I've been here to see them grow up. And I'm an Ohio resident who is more than a little tired of the public relations done by the two charter school associations -- you know, the ones they pay to get public relations from.

In theory, you would think that public schools would not lose money, but in the actual experiment, we have seen that they do. Some of the reasons are given in the article.

Because I have lived here, and because I have studied our systems, I can tell you, Scrooge, that we never had busing for integration here. I am always perplexed by the absolute fear some have of a few kids, who may not even be different enough to be identifiable from the current students, entering a school district. How much should that affect the majority of kids? People say their school has excellent practices, but their statements seem to reveal that they really believe it is the students themselves who hold the key. (Rather than any difference in teaching) And they seem to have little confidence that good home and community values in their kids will persist given even the slightest exposure to other ideas. Shouldn't a good school climate be able to welcome a few more students without falling apart? I see Mooney and Ursuline are willing to give it a shot.

The closest thing we had to forced integration was a court case in the seventies. It was settled by transferring a few Black teachers from predominantly Black YCS schools into the white neighborhood YCS schools. It was a timid attempt at change. In fact, I don't think it was noticed by anyone but the teachers who moved.

Bunchobull, I'll be glad to exchange resumes. You go first.

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17Education_Voter(1174 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

No. I don't know that Metz. There are troubled kids everywhere, as Austintown has always known. But my kids have no problem being themselves and taking a positive road.

I have also seen many kids change with maturity, and make a turnaround to being model citizens, especially when they were exposed to positive attitudes. So I don't condemn kids in their youth.

I literally ran into a former student when leaving a local gas station convenience store. When we bumped, she hugged me and re-introduced herself. She apologized for being a difficult student (not that she had to -- its part of my job) and told me about her different life.

I also had two former students find me after some detective work on their part. They were in the "slow" class of the poorest, most crime ridden school in the city. I loved that class, and I knew which ones were dead, or in jail. But these two were neither. One is now a registered nurse at the Cleveland Clinic. The other is a soccer mom in a Detroit suburb, married to an auto worker.

I was absolutely blessed to be able to work in the Youngstown Schools and meet the great kids there.

Even most of the ones who got in trouble could have gone another way. One is in jail as the survivor of a gunfight. What I remember is the hope he had, when as a middle school student, he used to walk with all his gear, after school from the North Side to Volney field on Glenwood for football practice. No complaints. No whining. He just accepted it as part of his day.

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18Bunchobull(6 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Metz, I know what you’re saying. And it’s true. I have experienced it first hand.

Education_Voter you have answered my question enough; you have worked in the Youngstown city schools and you obviously believe your rhetoric about school funding. Nothing I say can convince you otherwise. You may choose not to condemn kids in their youth hoping that they will change with maturity. But does this imply that bad disruptive students who hamper the school experience of good students is OK? City schools will many times not expel a violent student because the school will lose money. The solution? Give them a detention instead. Why condemn them? If a youth commits a wrong, they should be dealt with. They should be held accountable as well as their parents. The punishment should fit the crime, even with youth.

I believe many of the social ills that affect our country happen because our government enables bad behavior and irresponsibility by not holding people accountable for their actions. This of course includes kids. Bad choices are simply blamed on society. If you want proof, you can see the satellite dishes on government assisted housing. Our nation’s poor can afford the luxuries of cable and big screen TV’s. Baloney! Take away that luxury and perhaps the kids will focus on their studies.

Charter schools offer a choice for some parents who do not want to have to subject their children to dangerous city schools. Are city schools dangerous? Some school systems in this state force their kids to go through airport security to find the guns and knives.

Charter schools use State money (the money the State allows a student – which follows the student to his school) while the city schools receive additional city and federal monies.

But again, you seem to be content on believing that the shadows on the cave wall are reality without actually turning around to see. You may have the last word as I will no longer waste anymore time with you. I know enough to stop banging my head on the wall.

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19Bunchobull(6 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

I totally agree with you metz. Education is a privilege, not a right. You can lead a student to school but you can't make him learn. If a youth only goes to school only to cause disruption, fight, take up space, do drugs, etc. they should be expelled for good. Their parents can then be responsible for home schooling. Responsibility starts at home. There should be no way any good productive student should have to be in the same room with an unruly, disruptive, violent student.

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20lizzie4444(9 comments)posted 7 years ago

Funding schools??
Look at the pork barreling first. Curriculum supervisors...for what? Teachers and school administrators are schooled and trained to set curriculum. These supervisors are the biggest waste of tax payer $$$. Look into what they do and you decide (especially Youngstown schools who really need the cutbacks.)

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