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Official: Public can fight school privatization

Published: Tue, May 8, 2012 @ 12:05 a.m.

By Denise Dick



To stop privatization of public education, citizens need to become active.

“Go to hearings, send 10 million emails to the governor and the legislators,” William L. Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, told about 200 people at Boardman High School Monday.

Phillis was a speaker at a public forum sponsored by township schools and the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.

Chief topics were charter schools and vouchers, both of which take money from public school districts, presenters said.

Nearly $780 million in state funding went to charter schools in fiscal year 2012 including $21 million from Youngstown, $696,000 from Austintown and $683,000 from Boardman school districts.

Even though the Ohio Supreme Court has declared the state’s school-funding system unconstitutional because it relies too heavily on local property taxes, the system remains in place.

Steve Dyer, Education Policy Fellow at Innovation Ohio, pointed out that though state funding for traditional public schools in Ohio has decreased, it’s increased for charter schools — even though more than half of the former earn at least an A on state report cards, compared to nearly half of charter schools in Ohio earning D’s or F’s on the report card.

Public schools have to either cut programs or seek property tax increases to make up the difference, Dyer said.

He said it’s a myth that vouchers allow kids to be rescued from failing schools. Vouchers allow students from failing public schools to attend private schools using public dollars.

“Vouchers have little to no impact on student success,” Dyer said.

Gov. John Kasich is a supporter of the state’s voucher program, and has said “more choice, more accountability, more dollars in the classroom instead of bureaucracy will improve our schools, and we will have a significant reform agenda.”

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said there’s an attack on public education, which he believes is an essential element of democracy.

That attack is evidenced by efforts to create charter universities, by referring to traditional schools as government schools and by increasing funding for charter schools and vouchers, he said.

“Public education provides opportunities,” Strickland said.

“It provides ladders to increase our social and economic standing.”

But those who want to privatize it want education to adopt a manufacturing model, he said. Children, however, aren’t widgets, Strickland said.

Those attending were asked to provide their contact information and help with activities such as attend a statehouse rally, spread the word through social media, write letters to the editor or appear on talk shows.

“Our hope is that this is not just one more meeting,” Strickland said.

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