Education Reform: Are Charter Schools Or Public Schools the Best Choic?

There seems to be a tremendous amount of support for replacing traditional public schools with so-called "sponsored charter schools.” Before we allow our states to continue funding this new form of education for the children in our communities, it would be prudent to take a closer look at what tax-payers are getting for their money.

In Ohio, charter schools are ranked using a new performance index score encompassing all charter schools. Sponsors are eligible to open a new charter school if they are not included in the bottom 20% of the existing charter schools!

It is insane to give public monies to entities who are failing at the job they are hired to do: provide a quality education for children in the community! Under the grading system for regular public school systems, traditional public schools must rate at least 70% to be ranked at a C or above. Using the same ranking system as traditional schools, 74% of charter schools would receive a D or an F. There is no reason that anyone would even consider sending their child to a school that failed at meeting a preset standard of teaching. To add insult to injury, Innovation Ohio (a non-partisan think tank) has reported that because of the $774 million deducted in 2012 from traditional public schools to fund the charter schools, students in traditional education realized an average funding cut of 6.5% less state aid than the state said they needed.

It gets worse: more than 90% of the money sent to rated charter schools  last year went to charter schools who scored significantly lower on the Performance Index Score than the public schools which served the students to begin with. Innovation Ohio also stated that over 40% of state funding for charter schools in that same school year ($326 million) was transferred from higher performing traditional schools (as ranked by both the State Report Card and Performance Index) to pay for the substandard charter schools. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

Transportation, a major cost for any school system is paid for by law by traditional public schools they must pick up the tab for all the children in the district, including those who attend the sponsored charter schools. Innovation Ohio reports that there are more than 270 legal requirements imposed on traditional public schools that the charter schools are exempt from all of these requirements have a monetary cost. Yet none of the costs are imposed on the charter schools.

The charter schools have an average pay rate for a teacher at $34,714, whereas traditional public school teachers receive $57,310 (including benefits). The Washington Post published a survey regarding the average hours a teacher actually works during a week. The answer: between teaching, planning, grading, etc., they work 53 hours a week. Broken down, it means that that teachers who teach in the charter school setting are making an average of $12.60 an hour while their traditional school counterparts fare a little better at $20.73 an hour.

The low performance scores for the charter schools are starting to make sense; you get what you pay for. Charter schools are not going to be recruiting the best teachers at a pay rate that is only slightly better than what they pay at McDonald's. Until the state of Ohio figures out how to fund true alternatives to traditional public schools in a manner that is equitable and provides a solid education for the children, they would be wise to invest in traditional public schools and tell the sponsors of charter schools to check back when they have their act together.