Students Up in Air as Ohio Cracks Down on Charter Schools
In a little over a month two charter schools in the Cincinnati are have closed.
The first was International College Preparatory Academy (ICPA). On November 14 the school closed it’s doors after giving parents one day’s notice. Under mounting debt from past years and recent moving expenses ICPA was unable to pay it’s administration and teachers months before the state of Ohio pulled their funding.
A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Education said ICPA’s funding was frozen because the state overpaid the the school at the beginning of the school year. The state had expected over 400 students to attend the school over the summer but by October the number had shrunk to 148. By that time the state had made 1 million dollars in school payments.
Mismanagement of school funding, falling attendance, and failing students helped to do in Harmony Community School. On December 16 the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that “a judge recently threw out the public trust argument but allowed allegations about money owed to the state to remain.”
“This was a poorly functioning educational institution that was a waste of public tax dollars,” said Todd Marti, one of the state’s lawyers to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Over the years Harmony has been in the news because of suspicious practices. In 2001 the school left it’s Swifton Commons location and began holding classes at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for free. It was still receiving money from the state for the rental of school facilities. Swifton Commons is now Jordan’s Crossing, where ICPA was located.
In 2003, Harmony’s football team was investigated by Ohio High School Athletic Association because of allegations of ineligibilty. A few schools questioned the age and eligibility of some of the players. The school was exonerated.
Harmony officially closes on December 31 but students began winter break last Friday.
This past fall a report from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) reported statewide absenteeism averaging around 5.9 percent. According to Scripps Howard News service, “Ohio’s charter schools account for only 3 percent of the state’s public high school enrollment, but they account for 45 percent of the state’s high school dropouts”.
Because of failing Charter schools, Ted Strickland began cracking down on low performing ones. Fifty-Seven percent of Ohio’s charter schools are are in academic watch or emergency, compared with 43 percent of traditional public schools (NYT 8Nov2007). Most of Ohio’s charter schools are located in it’s big cities.
Critics of Ohio’s charter schools charge that many of them were opened not to bring innovation into education but to take advantage of the start up money. Some even lacked education credentials to open schools.
But proponents of the charter schools feel that the schools haven’t been given enough time to prove themselves and that state legislature is rushing to judgement.
“This is like suing the American Cancer Societyjust because they haven’t yet cured cancer,” said Ohio House Representative John Husted (R). Husted wrote the law under which Ohio charter schools operate.
President-elect Obama is a supporter of charter schools. During the Fall Debates of 2008 Obama said that he felt that charters arent’ the only answers but “are providing the kind of competitions that have upgraded both types of school (charter and public)”.
For now students from Harmony and ICPA are trying to find new schools or become acclimated to the one’s they’ve chosen. When ICPA closed in November other local charter schools and parochial schools spoke with parents to enroll them. A district spokesperson from Cincinnati Public Schools said that CPS is looking to enroll former Harmony students into their Middle and High Schools.
Some parents might have reservations about charter schools. Sheree Miles, a parent of a former fourth-grader at ICPS and ex-cafeteria worker in the school’s lunchroom, wonders about their validity.
“How many more people are going to keep pimping our inner-city schools? How many for-profit management companies are going to profit off of our kids?” Miles said to the Enquirer.