Tuesday, January 25, 2000

CPS endorses 3 charter schools


First in state to start its own

BY DANA DiFILIPPO
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Tom Mooney, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, speaks out Monday against charter schools.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Cincinnati Board of Education approved three charter school proposals Monday night,becoming the first district in Ohio to create its own charter schools.

        The East End Community Heritage School, Trade and Technology Prep and Lighthouse Community School will open this fall and enroll about 405 students, who must live in the district.

        Board members rejected a fourth proposal for the Engineering and Technology Academy.

        Superintendent Steven Adamowski had championed charter schools as a reform that could help slow the exodus of students to state-approved charter schools. About 1,600 students left CPS schools last year for the five charter schools approved in Cincinnati by the Ohio Department of Education.

        “This has been a long road to this point,” Mr. Adamowski said. “We think we have a responsibility to show that this process can work.”

        By chartering its own schools, Mr. Adamowski argued, the district could offer parents more educational

        choices yet retain some control over the independent, public schools.

        The approval came despite objections from Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Tom Mooney, who urged the board to reject all four.

        He complained that state-approved charter schools have been plagued by problems, including poor building conditions, inadequate financial reporting, abysmal test scores and lack of discipline.

        “Statewide so far, there's been a lot more scandal than there has been success,” Mr. Mooney said.

        Approving the charter proposals also would cost the district $3 million in per-pupil allocation, transportation, low-income subsidies and other funds, he said.

        And if the schools succeed, their performance won't help CPS climb out of the “academic emergency” category it ranked in last year on state report cards, Mr. Mooney said. Although students in district-approved charter schools would be CPS students, their performance won't be included in CPS data on state report cards and other accountability measures.

        But Mr. Adamowski emphasized that the CPS charter contracts have sufficient safeguards to encourage achievement. If the schools don't rank in the “achieving” category in the district's accountability plan within three years, they would be given 180 days' notice and close.

        School board members were split in their support.

        On the East End proposal, board members Catherine Ingram and Harriet Russell voted no; Sally Warner, John Gilligan and Rick Williams voted yes; and Florence Newell abstained because she is a University of Cincinnati professor and several UC professors are involved in the school.

        On the Lighthouse proposal, Ms. Newell and Ms. Russell voted no; the others voted yes. On Trade and Technology Prep, Ms. Ingram and Ms. Newell voted no; the others voted yes. On Engineering and Technology Academy, Ms. Ingram, Ms. Newell and Ms. Russell voted no; the others voted yes. Board member Lynn Marmer was absent.

        Mr. Gilligan supported the proposals despite initially voic ing hesitancy about embracing charter schools as a reform.

        “These aren't our schools except in the sense that we pay for them. Whatever success they achieve, I fear, will be attributed to the fact that they're not district schools,” Mr. Gilligan said. But with the four proposals considered Monday night, there were “substantial arguments to favor their approval,” he said.

        Charter schools are independent, public schools free from many state and union regulations. Ohio lawmakers authorized them in 1997 to give parents more educational choices, spur innovation and force public districts to improve through competition.

        Since then, 47 charter schools have opened in Ohio, enrolling about more than 10,000 students.

        Nationwide, 1,674 charter schools operate in 32 states; five more states allow charter schools but don't have any, according to the Center for Education Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based group that tracks and supports charter schools.

        Some entire districts have chartered in California and Florida.

        “When a superintendent has tried just about everything else at their disposal and not been able to make change, then chartering schools as independent schools where teachers can try all kinds of reforms is a great idea,” said Jeanne Allen, the center's president.

        Critics complain that charter schools are an experimental reform that drain dollars and students from public schools.

        In other business, the board:

        Agreed to close Swifton Primary School in Bond Hill at the end of the 2000-01 school year. Students then will go to Bond Hill, Roselawn Condon and Losantiville schools.

        Agreed to expand Shroder Paideia School in Kennedy Heights and Jacobs Center in Winton Place to include ninth grade in 2000-01, adding a grade a year thereafter until the schools are 7-12.

       



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