In the Senate’s version of the State Budget Bill (House Bill 64), the author’s decided to include bonus money for charter schools and school districts based on two specific items: four-year graduation rates and third grade reading proficiency (based on whatever third grade reading test the state will be using).

For graduation rate, the formulas are fairly simple: “The school/district’s four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate on its most recent report card x 0.05 x the formula amount x the number of the district’s graduates reported to the department … for the same school year for which the most recent report card was issued”.

The “formula amount” is also being increased slightly via the bill (page 1508): “Formula amount” means $5,900, for fiscal year 2016, and $6,000, for fiscal year 2017.  The formula amount is the base (starting) per-pupil amount allocated to schools/districts.

While the graduation rate bonuses are based on the same formula for charter schools and public school districts, the bonus centered around the “third grade reading guarantee” law is quite different and inexplicably favors charter schools over public school districts.

The formulas start out the same: “The school/district’s third-grade reading proficiency percentage x 0.15 the formula amount x the number of the school’s students scoring at a proficient level or higher on the third-grade English language arts assessment … for the immediately preceding school year”.

At the end of the formula for districts, however, there is this additional multiplier: “… x the district’s state share index”.

The “state share index” is something that the legislature uses in funding formulas that supposedly describes a district’s ability to collect funding from the local community (i.e., a local community’s “ability” to chip in to pay for schools).  Local communities do not, however, have full autonomy over exactly what they have to pay for, since state laws surrounding testing, transportation, retention of third graders, etc., are mandated by the General Assembly and local communities simply have to absorb those mandates and associated expenses.  Additionally, local communities don’t get to decide whether or not they wish to have charter schools open up in their area and steal money away from the local school district (at a rate higher than what the district receives in state funding).

The “state share index” is a multiplier that is already used in determining the base amount of school funding that districts receive from the state and, while the calculation is changing slightly under the Senate version of HB64, the percentage still ranges from 0.05% up to a cap of 90%.  What this means is that while charter schools are eligible for the entire formula amount as a bonus, school districts will only receive, at most, 90% of that formula amount for achieving the exact same goal.

To be even clearer, however, only 5 out of Ohio’s 613 school districts had an index figure of 90% this past school year while 17 were at the minimum figure of 0.05%.  311 of Ohio’s school districts had an index figure below 50%, including two of the largest urban districts in the state that are home to many charter schools – Cincinnati (46%) and Columbus (49%).

The other large urban district’s that “compete” with numerous charter schools are still nowhere near the 100% funding bonus mark that the charter’s will receive:

  • Cleveland – 70%
  • Dayton – 80%
  • Toledo – 75%

Once again, the legislature is favoring charter schools over the public school districts by finding more creative and subversive ways to try to funnel more funding their way.

Think of it this way: in Columbus, a charter school will receive a bonus based on a formula amount of $5,900 next year, while the Columbus City Schools’ formula amount based on the same achievement will be half of that amount — approximately $2,950.  This provision sets up for Columbus, for example, to have the same requirements, the same goals, and the same achievement as the charters that they are supposedly “competing” with, yet the per-pupil bonus will be less than half the amount.

While many Ohio politicians and charter school backers say that they want charters to “have an even playing field” with the local school districts, they keep finding more and more ways to tilt the field in favor of the charters.

Contact your state senator today and tell them to remove the “state share index” component from the bonus for local school districts (page 1,525 of the Senate Finance Committee’s version of HB64).

After all, why do the members of the Ohio General Assembly value a charter school student more than a student in our public school districts?