The OEA Misfires

With its new report evaluating charter schools, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) launches another salvo in the already polarized charter school debate.

Not surprisingly, it's far off the mark.

The OEA complains that charters receive more state funding than traditional districts, $6,734 per students versus $3,329 per student, respectively. Yet this difference exists only because charters receive no local dollars to supplement their budgets. Meanwhile, traditional districts pull in hefty sums from local tax levies. The result is that that the major urban districts (where most charters operate) outspend charter schools hands down. Ohio Department of Education figures from 2004-05 show Columbus Public Schools and Dayton Public Schools leading the pack with per-pupil expenditures of $12,734 and $12,732--nearly double that of most charter schools. A comprehensive study conducted by Fordham--see here--found similar inequities across the state.

Moreover, these figures don't include state facility funds, of which charters receive none. Columbus and Cincinnati Public Schools are currently overseeing building projects with price tags over $1 billion--all paid for with taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, charter schools must shoulder facility costs and educate their students for about 70 cents on every traditional school dollar.

As for achievement, the report decries charter performance-noting that 71 percent of these schools are either on academic watch or in academic emergency, compared with just 49 percent of traditional schools. To be sure, charter schools (and many traditional public schools) struggle academically. But the OEA's broad comparison pits charters schools against all traditional public schools-including those serving more affluent suburban populations. Charter schools serve predominantly urban, low-income students. Hardly a reasonable comparison.

Another OEA comparison between urban traditional public and charter schools with the same zip code finds that only Dayton Public Schools was outperformed by charters. While more interesting and appropriate, it's still not a fair comparison. Many traditional public schools, through open enrollment policies, and most charter schools draw students from all over the city, not just local neighborhoods.

Despite insisting it is a strong "supporter" of charter schools (so strong that it wants the Ohio Supreme Court to declare them unconstitutional), the OEA is far more interested in throwing bombs than raising the level of discourse surrounding charter schools.

You can download the OEA's report here.

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