A large amount of taxpayer money meant for public education is being siphoned off by charter schools and vouchers, local school treasurers say.
Financial information from Austintown, Boardman, Canfield, Poland and South Range was presented Monday night at Austintown Middle School during a forum called “What Does School Choice Cost Community Taxpayers?” sponsored by The League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown. More than 60 people attended.
When a student leaves a public school district, “the amount transferred is almost always more than the state would have given to the district for that pupil,” said Steve Dyer, education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio.
Dyer said the state’s per-pupil contribution averages $7,004 for charter schools, $6,320 for online schools, $4,971 for vouchers and $3,033 for local school districts.
“This is a problem,” he said. “... And it’s up to grass-roots activists to go down to Columbus and change the system.”
Another problem with the public money going to charter schools is a loss of governance, said William L. Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.
Phillis pointed out that charter and community schools don’t have locally elected school boards leading them.
“There’s no or very little accountability,” he said of charter or community schools.
In the past 16 years, Austintown, Boardman, Canfield, Poland and South Range lost a total of $37.5 million to community schools, open enrollment and scholarships designed to help students with special needs move outside their home districts, according to information provided by those districts.
Austintown had the biggest chunk, losing about $17.7 million in 16 years.
For comparison, Austintown’s budget this year is about $40 million, said Austintown Superintendent Vincent Colaluca.
“This impacts all districts, and these districts here tonight are excellent and they’re still losing dollars to non- comparable schools,” Colaluca said.
He said taxpayers should watch upcoming laws and voice their opinions at the ballot box.
“Laws are voted on by legislators,” he said.