Charter schools in Ohio struggle to find the resources necessary to build new facilities or expand existing ones. This is not just an Ohio problem, though. Across the nation, tales abound of charter school leaders maxing out credit cards and borrowing against their homes to house students. Meanwhile, traditional districts are spending millions in state dollars to renovate existing facilities and construct new ones-often despite deeply pessimistic enrollment forecasts.
This makes little sense for communities or taxpayers. Ohio needs to fund the schools children attend rather than the construction of new buildings in the hope that students will fill them.
One solution is to encourage school districts to "sponsor" free and independent charter schools, making these schools eligible for state facilities funding, so long as the following conditions are met:
- Such schools must be "true" charters--i.e., non-profit organizations with their own boards that enter into contracts with districts and have the right to end those contracts and/or seek new sponsors.
- Districts counting charter school students for purposes of construction/renovation funding must make suitable facilities available to those schools at no cost to them.
- Districts must agree that, if such a charter school opts to change sponsors, it can continue to lease its facility from the district for (at least) 10-15 years at prevailing market rates. (This provision keeps the charter school from being held hostage by the district or from being closed down should political winds shift on the district school board.)
Ohio needs a viable strategy to provide all public schools the facilities they need.
"School Board Argues Over Cuts," by Jennifer Mrozowski, The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 11, 2006.
"Fewer New Schools Needed," by Jennifer Mrozowski, The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 6, 2006.
"Investors to the Rescue," Editorial, The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2006.
"Despite Hopes, New City Schools Will Serve Fewer Neighborhoods," by Scott Elliot, The Dayton Daily News, June 29, 2006.
"Dayton Forced to Cut Back School Building Plan," by Scott Elliot, The Dayton Daily News, June 29, 2006.