February 14, 2023

Jeanne Melvin: Ohio can’t afford to prioritize private and charter schools over fully-funded public schools

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Jeanne Melvin retired after 36 years teaching in Ohio schools, and now is a public education activist in that state. In this op-ed for the Ohio Capital Journal, she argues for Ohio to get its education priorities in order, rather than follow the governor’s proposed expansion of public dollars directed to private and religious schools.

The governor proposes to increase the income eligibility for school vouchers up to 400% of the federal poverty level, which is $111,000 per year for a family of four. This expansion of school vouchers would cost about $178 million per year, according to an analysis from the Legislative Services Commission.

In addition to more money for vouchers, DeWine’s budget has some bonuses for charter schools, such as providing an extra $3,000 for each economically disadvantaged student and doubling per-student building funding to $1,000 per student for all charter schools. Why would online charter schools need increased per-student funding for their non-existent school buildings?

Charter schools by Ohio law are referred to as “public schools,” but they are publicly-funded, tuition-free schools, which are privately-operated. Charter schools were originally conceived in 1997 as “laboratories for innovation,” but when Ohioans think of innovation, they probably do not have profiteering in mind.

However, that is what most of Ohio’s charter schools, mislabeled as “community schools” in Ohio Revised Code, have become: nonprofits in name only run by those who cash in on educating kids.

Since the pandemic, more than half of all Ohio charter schools are run by for-profit corporations, enrolling 60% of all of our state’s charter school students. Many of these corporate operators are located out-of-state, ignoring both federal regulations and Ohio laws that say funding should go to public schools that are nonprofit organizations operated for children, not for personal enrichment.

Accel, the fourth largest for-profit chain in the nation, is rapidly expanding by buying up failing Ohio charter schools owned by other for-profits. While Accel may have offices in Ohio, it is a subsidiary of Virginia-based Pansophic Learning, which is partially owned by an investment company in Dubai.

There’s more about profiteering in Ohio. Read the full op-ed here.


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