Friday, April 06, 2001

Teachers union challenges funding for charter schools

By Travis James Tritten
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Ohio's system for funding charter schools illegally diverts money from public schools, and violates a state law requiring schools to be nonprofit, a teachers union charged Thursday.

        The Ohio Federation of Teachers plans to file a lawsuit within the next two to three weeks, which the union claims would be the first in the nation to challenge charter school funding.

        OFT President Tom Mooney announced the union's plans during the group's annual convention in Columbus.

        Charter schools receive state funding originally meant for public schools, but are not subject to the same standards.

        Because they are not held accountable to elected school boards and taxpayers, that amounts to taxation without representation, Mr. Mooney said.

        “The concept of charter schools has been hijacked, it has been perverted,” said Mr. Mooney, formerly president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the state union.

        State funding of for-profit schools has created a separate school system, plagued with problems and abuses because of lower academic and operating standards, he said.

        The OFT cites academic performance, financial scandals, midyear closings and under-qualified teachers as proof that charter schools are failing.

        It might be too early to judge charter schools, responded the Ohio Department of Education.

        Ohio has had charter schools since 1998. Schools are required to issue report cards after two years of operation, and only 12 schools have done so, said Pam Young, associate superintendent for the department's Center of School Reform and Operations.

        While she said charter schools are not outperforming public schools, she would not say they are doing worse.

        Every school's contract is negotiated independently and most include an accountability clause with attendance and community-service standards, Ms. Young said. Most of the charter schools take Ohio proficiency tests.

        Although there is little information available on their effectiveness, 68 schools are operating in Ohio and an additional 38 are scheduled to open next fall.


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