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"Community" Schools are Stealing Your Taxes
This note has been brewing ever since Governor Kasich's budget announcement. This may seem like random statistics to some, but just think about how these all piece together to inhibit the positive growth of the local school districts in Ohio. From the skewed school funding model to the misapplied term "community" to the fact that taxpayers are being misled about where their money is being sent, the entire system is corrupt. And when Republican legislators complain that school unions are "unelected individuals" making decisions about public monies, remind them of how the funding of community schools redirects your tax dollars to "unelected individuals." (The question of "unelected individuals" affecting tax dollars was repeatedly asked of witnesses by Representative Coley during the March 14, 2011, House Commerce and Labor Committee hearing.) ALL statistics used in this note have been pulled directly from the Ohio Department of Education website unless otherwise noted. First, let's talk about the community schools that exist in Ohio. Some schools are sponsored by local districts allowing the district to fund unique initiatives with some more "flexibility" in state oversight. The large majority of community schools are sponsored by non-profit entities and managed by for-profit companies. Total community schools in Ohio: 339 Number of counties with a sponsored community school: 37 (out of 88) Number of counties with a sponsor that is not a local school district: 23 Number of community schools in eight counties: 265 (Franklin, Cuyahoga, Lucas, Montgomery, Hamilton, Summit, Mahoning, Lorain) To recap, we have for-profit community schools in only 23 out of 88 counties in Ohio and 78% of those schools are concentrated in only eight of those counties. Would you be surprised to find those counties surrounding our major cities? Here's a map: http://www.digital-topomaps.com/county-map/ohio.shtml Let's look at some of our top sponsors: Buckeye Community Hope Foundation: 39 schools in 9 different counties "BCHF seeks to foster and nurture productive relationships with Ohio community schools, providing ongoing guidance and professional oversight geared toward the success of community schools and their students. Realizing that community schools must be both educationally and fiscally sound, BCHF brings to its sponsorship role an unparalleled understanding of both teaching and the business of teaching. It is uniquely qualified to assist operators of community schools in creating educational systems that are both effective and selfsufficient." (http://www.buckeyehope.org/) Did you catch that? Buckeye Hope doesn't actually operate the schools. They sponsor other organizations to help run the schools. Follow the money . . . Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio, Inc: 23 schools in 5 counties "ERCO HISTORY
ERCO was founded in February 2005. We are an educational consulting firm that specializes in authorizing community schools." (http://www.ercoinc.org/aboutus.html) That's it. That's their complete history. A member of their 6-man advisory board includes this information in his bio: "James Brown has been the administrator of Life Skills Center – Dayton since it was established in 2005 and this school was recently selected as the model school within the White Hat Management Organization." You'll also notice that theseconsultants help get the schools up and running for an additional organization to actually run the schools. Follow the money . . . Kids Count of Dayton, Inc: 12 schools in 3 counties "Wright Dunbar, a school in Academic Emergency the previous year was suspended during the year for violating the academic standards of Community Schools. The suspension was lifted in early 2007 however; the school did not reopen for the remainder of the academic school year. Kids Count, made continuous contacts to secure all records and assets of that school with no success." Kids Count of Dayton, Inc., Sponsorship Annual Report, 2006-2007 "Kids Count of Dayton, Inc., which sponsors nine schools around the state, was given 45 days by Taylor to submit a written plan to assist the school to prepare its documents for an audit. Kids Count also is prevented from opening any new charter schools as long as Montessori Renaissance Experience’s books remain unauditable." Dayton Daily News, 3/17/2008. But rest assured: • • • "Kids Count of Dayton is a non-profit organization and therefore does not profit from its business." "The office was staffed with an executive director, administrative assistant, and three consultants in the areas of curriculum, finance, and governance." "Personnel Costs: $460,586; Benefits $92,117"
And finally, why does Kids Count of Dayton have half of its schools in Cincinnati and Columbus? Follow the money . . . Lucas County Educational Service Center: 67 schools in 16 counties I repeat, the Lucas County ESC sponsors community schools in 16 different counties. Only 10 of the schools are actually located in Lucas County. There isn't much to add about this one except to once again point out the obvious that they do not operate these buildings. Their staff of 12 consultants simply take their cut as they get permission from the state and then turn over the reigns of the school to any number of different companies (at least 16 by my count). The most common company is Summit Academy Schools (http://www.summitacademies.com/) who incidentally also have three schools sponsored by the aforementioned Kids Count of Dayton. The Lucas County ESC website is devoid of meaningful information (http://www.lucas.k12.oh.us/index.php?section=30). Ohio Council of Community Schools: 39 schools in 10 counties "Ohio Council of Community Schools, established in 1999, is a not-for-profit organization responsible for issuing and overseeing charters for Community Schools throughout Ohio. These Charters serves as contractual agreements regarding school’s standards, budgets, and operating principles. We are proven and experienced, and provide charters to numerous Community Schools across the state." (http://www.ohioschools.org/)
OCCS is based out of Toledo and partners with 8 school management companies, 6 of whom are based out-of-state. Follow the money . . . And finally, my personal favorite: St. Aloysius Orphanage: 42 schools in 10 counties I honestly was unaware that we had so many orphans in Ohio. "St. Aloysius shares your desire to create a better life for children and families in our community through education. We can help you start a school without having to balance the needs of traditional school systems and teachers unions. We contract with Charter School Specialists to provide you with a high quality team to address and meet the needs of existing and new community schools. For more information about our charter school sponsorship program please contact us at 513-242-7600." (http://www.staloysiuscincinnati.org/charter_school.htm) Charter School Specialists is a link that takes you to . . . "Charter School Specialists was founded in 2004 by Dave L. Cash after working extensively at the Ohio Department of Education as an Education Consultant for charter schools throughout Ohio. Previously Mr. Cash served as a Principal for eight years working with urban at-risk children. Today, Charter School Specialists employs over fifteen experts in various education and financial disciplines specializing in charter schools. At Charter School Specialists we assist developers, education management organizations, and school districts. Our team provides technical assistance related to the development of charter school applications and contracts; and guides developers through the charter school start-up process. We provide technical assistance to charter schools from pre-operation planning, through early operations, and ongoing school improvement and data management. Charter School Specialists has assisted in the successful development and implementation of over 80 schools. We have a stellar reputation in the charter school movement and exist to provide value to the school choice public education system." (http://www.charterschoolspec.com/) For the record, Dave L. Cash does not hold any educator certificate or license in the state of Ohio. This is easily verified through the Ohio Department of Education website. Secondly, while the other sponsors I've mentioned sponsor a company that runs the school, St. Aloysius actually seems to sponsor a sponsor, who then sponsors a company to run the school. St. Aloysius is a registered 501(c)3 (non-profit organization), but Charter School Specialists is a Limited Liability Company (LLC). With the exception of ERCO which doesn't claim to be a company, but a group of consultants, all of the others I've mentioned are considered non-profits. In this last case, however, we have a for-profit company sponsoring for-profit companies. Follow the money . . .
It is widely known that Ohio's school funding model has been ruled unconstitutional. It is probably less widely understood that Ohio distributes tax dollars inequitably across school
districts. There is a state average, but the amount that is used to provide state funding has complex factors which include the ability of a local district to raise revenue and a mix of special education factors. In FY09, for instance, the Olentangy Local School District received per pupil state revenue of $1,573.00, while the East Cleveland City School District received per pupil state revenue of $10,044. I certainly think the case can be made on either side of that gap to question the fairness, but neither district represents the lowest or highest percentage of per pupil revenue in the state. Likewise, it can get murky when trying to compare two districts that my be very different in terms of local economics. Instead, let's look at the distribution of state tax dollars to community schools and their surrounding school districts. Dollar amounts are from Ohio Department of Education FY09. Franklin County includes 16 local school districts with an average per pupil state revenue of $3,957.94. New Albany-Plain Local SD is the lowest at $1,673.00 and Whitehall City SD is the highest at $6,254.00. Community schools in Franklin County received an average per pupil state revenue of $9,416.81. Life Skills Center of Columbus North is the lowest at $6,011.67 and Noble Academy-Columbus at $65,376.66. That is not a misprint. The Ohio Department of Education reports the as the per pupil revenue number for Noble Academy. I'm willing to consider that number as being a data quirk, but what about the next five highest amounts? $14,369.93 -- Scholarts Preparatory School and Career Center for Children $15,471.46 -- Summit Academy Middle School-Columbus $16,550.01 -- FCI Academy $21,396.76 -- Summit Academy Transition High School Columbus $28,902.61 -- Oakstone Community School Could these all be quirks? In fact, 49 Franklin County community schools are reported to have received state revenue in excess of Whitehall City SD's amount. To clarify, on average, a Franklin County community school is paid $5458.87 more per pupil, over twice the amount that local school districts receive. Where does that money come from? It is deducted from the amounts the school districts receive. The state sets the per pupil "foundation" funding amount and then reduces the amount paid to districts by imposing a charge off (accounts for growth in property value) that results in the district receiving approximately 40% of the foundation amount. Community schools are funded in a slightly different way. "Community school students are counted as part of the funded enrollment base for school districts and payments to community schools are deducted from the foundation payment of the school district where the community school student resides." (http://education.ohio.gov/GD/Templates/Pages/ODE/ODEDetail.aspx? page=3&TopicRelationID=998&ContentID=79172&Content=100496) What this means is that the community school is paid the full foundation amount for each student. Have you heard the argument that community schools don't receive local taxes? Technically that's true, but local districts are equally penalized by the state for receiving those taxes, so it's essentially equalized through the state funding process. Another very important piece of information that I don't want to lose is the flow of money. Community school students are calculated into the full funding amount (enrollment base) allocated to a district. Once that full amount is calculated, then the payments are made to the
community schools and districts. The state counts the funding against the local district. While the community schools received 100% of the per pupil amount, districts only receive their funding after the charge off, approximately 42% of the per pupil amount. These are state taxpayer dollars. Follow the money . . . As I mentioned above, East Cleveland City SD received the highest per pupil revenue amount in Ohio. By comparison, 45 community schools across the state received per pupil revenue in excess of $11,000. Which sponsors are receiving the bulk of our taxes? Average per pupil amounts are listed below. $9,891.35 - Buckeye Community Hope Foundation $7,140.72 - Educational Resource Consultants of Ohio, Inc. $11,656.79 - Kids Count of Dayton, Inc $12,096.12 - Lucas County Educational Service Center $7,901.98 - Ohio Council of Community Schools $7,815.31 - St. Aloysius Orphanage For comparison, the average for school districts in Ohio's major counties where these community schools operate. $4,076.68 - Cuyahoga County school districts $7,972.16 - Cuyahoga County community schools $3,957.94 - Franklin County school districts $9,416.81 - Franklin County community schools $3,898.18 - Hamilton County school districts $8,222.72 - Hamilton County community schools $4,140.14 - Lorain County school districts $10,563.52 - Lorain County community schools $3,764.38 - Lucas County school districts $10,674.71 - Lucas County community schools $4,733.93 - Mahoning County school districts $9,973.40 - Mahoning County community schools $4,903.56 - Montgomery County school districts $9,303.61 - Montgomery County community schools $3,724.82 - Summit County school districts $9,345.75 - Summit County community schools These numbers represent YOUR state tax dollars at work. Follow the money . . .
And finally, when someone challenges you by saying that community schools don't receive any federal funding, mention that the Ohio Department of Education distributed: Federal Charter School Grant funds to community schools in Ohio: $13,127,140.81 in FY08 $9,631,732.50 in FY09 $10,442,565.76 in FY10 Including a top award of $550,000.00 each to five different schools. Consolidated Federal Title Funds $78,347,226.27 in FY08 $92,282,995.69 in FY09 $105,835,747.65 in FY10 ARRA Federal Title Funds $69,548,505.52 in FY10
FOLLOW THE MONEY . . .
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