The state’s first “conversion” charter school, Dayton’s World of Wonder (WOW), apparently decided it had been out in the cold for too long. After seven years as a stand-alone, or “mom and pop” charter, WOW will rejoin Dayton Public Schools (DPS) as a district sponsored “contract” school.
Some will see this as a defeat for the charter school movement. But it’s really a reflection of school funding in Ohio. WOW’s decision was a matter of economics. Dayton charter schools receive 30 percent less funding than traditional district schools—and not one penny for facilities. Thus, charter schools like WOW must educate students and finance building costs for a meager 70 cents on the dollar.
Make no mistake. This is a win, at least in the short-term, for both the district and WOW. DPS has been hemorrhaging students for years and its building plans have been threatened by lower enrollment numbers (see below). WOW will bring about 350 students back to DPS; in return, WOW’s students will likely benefit from a new school building in the coming years.
The decision by the trustees of WOW to rejoin the district looks good now, but it is not risk-free. The autonomy WOW’s leadership and staff have enjoyed is guaranteed only as long as DPS’s board and superintendent allow it. Ultimately, the school’s parents and students will decide if WOW’s “reconversion” is more than just a marriage of convenience.