October 21, 2014

News Release: IO: GOP Budgets Help Private & Charter Schools at the Expense of Public Schools

For Immediate Release: June 24, 2013
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

IO: GOP Budgets Help Private & Charter Schools at the Expense of Public Schools

Columbus: Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a report today which concludes that all three Republican budget proposals for FY 2014-15 (which are awaiting reconciliation in a Senate/House Conference Committee) “continue the GOP’s relentless assault on traditional public schools while simultaneously advancing the interests of private schools and for-profit charter school operators, many of whom double as major Republican campaign donors.”

The IO report, entitled “Ohio School Choice: The Real Winners in HB 59,” focuses especially on the Senate-passed version of the budget since Senate President Keith Faber has repeatedly claimed that the Senate plan contains “historic” funding increases for traditional public schools.

According to the IO report:

  • Contrary to Faber’s claims, the Senate-passed budget neither makes up the $1.8 billion cut from schools in the last biennial budget nor restores constitutionality to the state’s school funding system.  Roughly 75% of Ohio’s school districts would receive less money than they did in the 2010-11 budget and about 25% would get less than they did in the 2012-13 budget.  In fact, when transportation money is excluded, the Senate’s proposed budget actually provides $80 million less funding than did the Governor’s proposal (the House budget provides $200 million less).  The $1.8 billion cut from schools since 2010-11 has led to teacher lay-offs, reduced academic course offerings, higher sports and extracurricular participation fees, and an unprecedented $1.3 billion in “new money” operating levies on local ballots since Kasich took office.  (Note: just after the IO Report was completed, the Ohio House and Senate Budget Conference Committee announced that under the new biennial budget, the state will no longer reimburse school districts for 12.5% of new property tax increases. The elimination of this reimbursement —in effect since 1971 —will make passage of future levies even more difficult which, in turn, will make it harder for school districts to offset state budget cuts through the passage of local levies).    
  • Meanwhile, all three Republican budgets continue to pour taxpayer money into poorly performing and highly inefficient charter schools where administrative costs are out of control.  While the average traditional public school building spends less than 6% of its money on administration, the average charter spends over 28% —and the worst performing charters spend nearly 40%.  Yet under the Senate proposal, charters would receive $57 million more from the state than in 2011-12, and the per pupil funding amount would jump from $7,141 to $7,475, more than at any time in the 15-year history of Ohio charter schools. To make matters worse, nearly every dollar charters receive from the state is deducted from the amounts allocated to public school districts, thus exacerbating the fiscal problems of those districts.  
  • Especially outrageous are the increased millions of dollars that would go to for-profit charter schools operated by people like David Brennan and William Lager, who contribute generously to Republican candidates and office-holders.  Brennan and his wife, for example have made $527,000 in campaign contributions, while Lager has forked over $455,000 in political donations.  Lager and the Brennans are among the top contributors to Gov. Kasich, House Speaker Batchelder and Senate President Faber.  Together, their schools receive a whopping 19% of all state money going to charters.    
  • The Senate bill also makes it harder to close failing charters –and provides multiple new exemptions for charters from the accountability standards applied to traditional public schools.  Yet while 68% of school district buildings rate “A” or “A+” on the state’s most recent local Report Cards, only 10% of charters achieve that rating —and 70% are expected to receive a grade of “F” on next year’s new Report Cards.
  • At the same time, all three Republican budget proposals dramatically expand private school vouchers.  Under the Senate plan, families earning up to $94,000 per year (Ohio’s average annual family income is just over $40,000) would be eligible for vouchers, or roughly 80% of all Ohio school children.  Even students currently attending public schools rated “excellent” would qualify —as would children already attending private and religiously affiliated schools.  In short, the purpose of vouchers would no longer be to liberate “poor children trapped in failing public schools”, but to subsidize private (and, often, religious) educations for some of the state’s most economically comfortable families.

Said IO President Janetta King:

“Since the day John Kasich took office, conservatives have waged war on public education.  Their budgets underfund traditional schools, overfund charter schools, and shamelessly subsidize private schools with public money.

“And their hypocritical calls for ‘accountability’ start and stop at the doors of traditional public schools. For charters, standards often give way to exemptions —and big campaign donors know that their poorly performing schools won’t close as long as the money spigot stays open.

“Most disgraceful of all is how conservatives are subsidizing private schools, and too often, religious instruction, with taxpayer dollars.  Vouchers are no longer narrowly designed to ‘help poor kids escape failing schools.’  Now they’re designed to help wealthy and upper middle class families pay tuition at the private schools their children already attend.

“What’s happening to traditional public schools in Ohio is short-sighted, offensive and wrong.   Republicans are slowly but surely dismantling our system of public education, and they’re doing it solely for ideological and political reasons.  This assault must stop before it’s too late.”

Download the report.

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