Friday, August 26, 2016

Toledo magnet school is all about community


Community leaders greet students on their first day at the
Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy for Boys
(photo from Toledo Public Schools)

It was the first day of school in Toledo and Rev. John C. Jones was up early.

Not because he is a teacher or administrator. Not because he has children in the Toledo Public Schools.

He was part of a group of men recruited to greet students at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy for Boys, a magnet school in the Toledo Public School District.

"We greeted every single kid," he said. "We wished them a good year, made sure they had a good handshake, helped some fix their ties. We wanted them to see the faces of positive role models as they started the new school year."

Rev. Jones said some of the kids were a bit nervous about "walking the gauntlet," especially the kindergartners, but most had been through it before and knew what to expect.

"They were excited to come through the line," he added. "You could see the excitement in their faces. But what was more critical was the excitement in the parents' faces and their appreciation for the men for investing their time to see that their child had a good start to the year."

Rev. Jones has been involved in leadership development and education for a number of years.

"Education is the bedrock of every advancement that takes place," he said. "There are things that happen in the psyche of a child that allows them to build and develop. Positive role models are one of them. We hope the boys look at us and say, 'I can do this just like this guy in front of me who is modelling success.'"

Willie A. Ward, the principal at the Academy, said it's all about community. The school population is 98 percent African-American and more than 75 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"Our community has some individual and unique challenges when it comes to education," Ward said. "When our young men can see others being successful, they can internalize that success as we emphasize and urge them to be college or career ready through their education."

He explained that all the students at the Academy, regardless of their background or economic status, need to know they have the support of the community.

"It's great for the kids to be able to say 'This is my pastor and he's here to support me,'" Ward added.

The school, which serves pre-kindergarten through 6th grade, emphasizes respect, responsibility and building positive relationships with others. As a magnet school of choice, it accepts applications from anyone within the school district. Students are admitted based upon attendance and behavior as well as parent involvement, Ward said.

Parents are required to sign a contract with the school and must commit to at least 10 hours of service throughout the school year.

"Parents have to agree to be involved in their child's education and to support the direction of the school," Ward explained. "Whenever there is parental involvement, the school and the child will be successful."

During the Academy's first years as an all-boys school, the school's state report card showed improvement increasing from a 66.6 performance index to a 93.3 performance index, on a 120-point scale. By the 2011-12 school year, the students were out-performing the district average in both reading and math in grades 3 through 6.

But several things happened in the district that negatively impacted test scores and student performance.

"We had a huge change-over in staff," Ward said. "We also went up to 8th grade and then back to just 6th grade. And then the testing changed. As soon as you learn what's on the test and what the kids have to know, they change the test. We knew it was going to happen, but it still takes time to adjust."

Ward believes he now has a stable teaching staff and a good culture in the school, with "everyone on the same page in terms of the expectations of teachers, parents and students" and is confident their school report card will improve from the "F" it received for 2014-15.

He said they extended the tie requirement in the dress code to kindergartners this year, because "something as simple as a dress code can change the mindset of the children."

"We've found that if you look your best, you perform at a high level," he explained. "It's had a major impact on students and on teachers in their delivery to the students. Additionally, the teachers are here and understand the school's mission and vision. You'll see all this reflected in the (test) results for this school year."

And the reinforcement from positive role models throughout the year will continue to provide encouragement, Ward added.

"We didn't just invite the men for the first day of school," he said. "Our objective is to get these role models into the building on a regular basis."

Ward has invited them to talk with the students at lunch time, to be involved in preparations for the state achievement tests, and perhaps read with the kids.

"We want to take advantage of the fact that we have people who can come and give individual support to the students," Ward added. "Last year we got about 30 percent who came in as their schedule permitted to take part in the school."

He said that others who were not able to provide physical support made donations to help pay for field trips, clubs, celebrations and recognitions.

Rev. Jones said he is proud to be a part of the mentoring program that is being built at the Academy.

"There is research that exists that speaks to the importance of community engagement and involvement particularly in the learning for students," he said. "If you provide positive reinforcements - if they see models of that throughout the school year - they will want to emulate that behavior."

And what did the kids think?

"We took a straw poll of what they were feeling," Ward said. "The impact was huge!"

"We teach them how to give a firm handshake and to look people in the eye and show respect and this first day greeting was an opportunity for them to practice that," he added. "To hear (a student) say 'I felt really good,' and see that student with a gleam in their eye, ready to go - it was rewarding."

"We can talk all day about the negatives that revolve around our kids," Rev. Jones added. "We spend a bunch of time telling kids what they cannot do. We need to spend at least a proportionate amount of time telling kids what they can do. And that's what we're doing."


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Toledo's proposed lead paint rental inspection law


The City of Toledo is considering an ordinance that would create an inspection law for rental properties that might contain lead paint.

The EPA's lead paint rental notice required for
all leases when property is rented.
Lead paint was outlawed in 1978 and Toledo has a number of homes built before then that could still have lead paint in them. Exposure to paint dust or ingesting paint chips could cause lead poisoning, especially in children. In 2014, the lastest year for which information is available, there were 239 children less than 6 years old that had lead poisoning, according to The Blade.

Under the proposal, rental properties would have to be "deemed safe" of lead paint. Owners/landlords would have to get a "lead safe certificate" - and, of course, pay a $45 fee. There would be a visual inspection and testing of dust.

If lead was found, it would have to be abated (completely removed) or interim measures would have to be taken (like painting over the old lead paint). If the lead is abated, the certificate would have to renewed every 20 years. If only interim steps are taken, the certificate would have to be renewed every four years.

This is the first time the dangers of lead paint have been addressed in Toledo. According to Toledo Parent:
In 2012, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department received a grant for $2,480,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for Lead Based-Paint Hazard Control. The Health Department contracts with the City of Toledo, Department of Neighborhoods, to provide the funds for removing lead, budgeted at approximately $10,000 per dwelling, each taking three to four weeks. The 3-year program, received a one-year extension until June 30, 2016. Its goal: to treat 175 units and make them lead-free, with priority given to households with children under age six or a pregnant female.
Robert Cole, attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, reports that the program did not meet its goals. Between 2013 and the present, there were 559 intakes (people who expressed an interest in the program). Of those 186 received applications, and 157 of those met the eligibility requirements Of the 157 , only 62 have received clearance to be occupied.  With  typical removal time at 3-4 weeks, and with less than six months until the unused grant money must be returned, it is unlikely the goal will be met.
Toledo Parent also says that the city's proposed ordinance was drafted with help from the Toledo Lead Poisoining Prevention Coalition. That group, under the auspices of ABLE includes Toledoans United for Social Action, Toledo Public Schools, The Cherry Street Legacy Project, the NAACP and representatives of the University of Toledo nursing school.

But landlords are not happy about the proposed requirements - or the costs. As the Toledo Parent article mentions, the cost to remove lead paint is approximately $10,000. Certainly, painting over the lead paint is cheaper, but whichever option is selected, the additional costs will eventually, in some form or another, be passed on to the tenant, raising the cost of rent in the area.

There's another potential problem for Toledo and their efforts: Baker v. Portsmouth. 

In that case, a group of landlords sued the Ohio city of Portsmouth over its rental inspection law. The city's position was that many homes were being occupied by renters without knowing if the buildings were safe or up to existing building codes. Portsmouth had a large number of code complaints from rental properties. The solution, the city decided, was to require a Rental Dwelling Certificate of all properties available to rent. In order to get the certificate, a dwelling had to be inspected and any defects corrected. The fee for the inspections/certificate ranged from $50 up to $480 depending on how many rental units the dwelling contained.

Any owners who failed to schedule their properties for inspection were threatened with having the property condemned.

The lawsuit maintained that such inspections were a violation of the owners' Fourth Amendment rights by mandating warrantless inspections without probable cause. The court agreed and found for the landlords, requiring Portsmouth to return all inspection fees it had collected.

In making the decision, the court considered the goal of the city was the health and safety of the public, but ruled that such "special needs" were not sufficient to overcome the owner's Fourth Amendment rights.

However, in the Portsmouth case, it was the city doing the inspecting. Toledo's proposal requires private inspections, so it may not rise to the level of a Fourth Amendment violation.

But there is a federal requirement that requires disclosure to purchasers or lessees of property, including a 10-day period the purchaser or lessee to inspect for the presence of lead-based paint hazards.

One has to wonder how so many children are getting lead poisoning if the parent(s) are notified upon renting about the potential for lead-based paint in the property. Do they just gloss over the information? Do renters understand the ramifications of the notice? Do they decide to go ahead and rent because they don't understand the dangers or because they really want the unit?

If that is the case, this would seem to be an issue of education rather than of requiring a governmental action.  But this is Toledo where the mayor and council routinely create laws whenever the problem is one of individual ignorance or lack of education.  Heaven forbid that city officials believe individuals can be responsible for themselves.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thurber's Thoughts is back!


photo via Wikia.com
First, please accept my apologies for being gone from regular blog posts for so long.

While writing for Ohio Watchdog, I channeled much of my "thoughts" into those articles. When that assignment concluded at the end of 2015, I decided to take a break. However, I accepted work on another project that had absolutely nothing to do with politics.

That commitment prevented me from devoting time to my blog, but that is also concluded so...

I'm back.

And boy is there a lot to say.

We can start with everyone's favorite complaint:  potholes and the state of Toledo's roads.

For over a decade, I've been warning anyone who would listen that transferring money out of the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) fund and into the General Fund to pay for every day expenses was a bad idea.

Eventually, I explained, we'd run out of money in the CIP and wouldn't have anything left for capital items - like roads and other expenses with a life of five years or more.

Wouldn't you know it, I was right and that mess erupted in the first part of the year when Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and Toledo City Council decided to ask voters to approve an increase in the payroll income tax.

Fortunately, that measure went down to defeat - resoundingly.

But it hasn't solved the problem that the city doesn't have enough money for capital items because they've raided more than $110 million out of the CIP fund.

And it's not just this mayor. Every "strong" mayor had a hand in creating the problem: spending more than what they took in and spending money on non-essential items.

Want to know just how ridiculous things got?

In February 2012, Toledo City Council *discovered* they had about $1 million more in revenue than they budgeted. But they were planning to transfer nearly $12 million out of the CIP to balance the budget. So instead of reducing the amount of the transfer to $11 million, they decided to spend that $1 million extra instead.

And what did they spend it on? A new filing system for city council and a temporary employee; additional funds for demolition of houses; additional inspectors in code enforcement, even though the department said it didn't need any; an executive director to run the previously discontinued Toledo Youth Commission; and a consultant to create an Historic Preservation Plan.

The irresponsible spending continues while former Council finance committee chairman and current City Treasurer George Sarantou, Toledo City Council and the mayor try to find a way to come up with more income rather than find a way to cut spending.

You see, there's no where else they can cut.

(At least, that's the story.)

So that's how we started the year and now we're looking at a sweetheart deal for Promedica, the city and the Metroparks.

Prime waterfront property on the East Side across from The Docks has been sitting undeveloped for decades.  Various developers have come and gone and finally, Dashing Pacific Group bought it.

Their plan was to develop it with shops and housing and take advantage of the wonderful waterfront and the new road and light posts the city installed to help with development.  But they haven't done anything on it yet and the city had a clause in the sale that said it could buy back the property after five years.

And it should tell you something about Toledo when all the developers who've had a chance at this have failed to actually *develop* prime waterfront property.

We must be the only city in the entire country that can't make a go of prime waterfront property.

But back to the sweetheart deal...

The city really doesn't have the cash to buy back the property, so Promedica has agreed to purchase the property from Dashing Pacific.  They will hold it for a bit and then sell it (for the purchase price) to the Metroparks.

The Metroparks will then make this prime waterfront property a park.

Never mind that the Metroparks has two levies that property owners pay.  In fact, the most recent one in 2012 was a 10-year levy that was supposed to generate funds for developing new parks, maintaining existing ones and preventing budget cuts. How much do you want to bet that they'll need another increase when they purchase about 100 more acres and then want to make this prime waterfront property into a park area?

Something about this isn't quite right. Why does Promedica want to purchase the land only to sell it to the Metroparks?

Can't Dashing Pacific sell it to the Metroparks without a go-between?

If the city has the ability to buy back the land, why don't they do so, especially if they've got a willing buyer in the Metroparks?

Are there some restrictions with the funding sources used to clean up the property and install roads and street lamps that prevents it from going directly to another governmental entity like the Metroparks?

Inquiring minds....

And then there is the Southwyck property.  The mall sat unused for - well, no one really remembers how long because it was such a long time.  The city finally got the property from the owner, tore down the buildings and decided to market it as an open area for development.

Oh - and they borrowed money to do the demolition.

Now there is a buyer but the city is looking at a loss on the project. As one city councilman said - they didn't buy the land in order to make a profit...

But here's the thing.  They still have a loan and, according to various media reports, they (or rather you and I) are paying about $70,000 in interest every year on that loan.

So the city is going to pay off the loan with the income from the sale, right?

No - this is Toledo, so wrong!

The city isn't planning on paying off the loan but putting the money into the CIP fund. So you and I and every other taxpayer is going to continue to pay about $70,000 in interest so the city can spend that income elsewhere.

If you're wondering what they're thinking at city hall, see above story about the 2012 budget.

Sadly, this is par for the course.

So that's the start. Coming up I'll take a look at the absolutely insane Toledo ordinance that forces any company doing business with the city to have a union contract - even if they're a non-union company. Talk about forced unionization!  Here I thought it was the union's job to organize but Toledo's Project Labor Agreement ordinance actually puts the city at the bargaining table with project bidders and forces them to adopt a union contract.

That'll be a long post so I'll save it for Monday.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ohio budgets billions more than it needs to


www.themediabriefing.com
As the Ohio General Assembly debates the state’s biennial budget, a new report says the state is spending too much.

Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget increases spending by $5.4 billion, “representing a trend of unsustainable public-spending growth” the 2015 Piglet Book says.

And taxpayers will end up paying nearly $1.8 billion of that increase.

The House-passed budget isn’t much better, with taxpayers footing the bill for $1.7 billion in increased spending.

Greg Lawson, a policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions and a co-author of the report, said now is good time to look at historical spending growth, especially with tax reforms included in the budget proposals.

“The governor wants to get rid of the income tax – and we agree with that,” Lawson said. “Our difference with him is how we get there. The solution to eliminating the income tax is to reduce spending in a strategic way over a period of time so we don’t have to look at increasing taxes elsewhere to offset that reduction, like the governor’s budget does.”

Lawson and co-author Tom Lampman say policy recommendations in the report could save taxpayers $2.6 billion in the 2016-17 budget.

One recommendation is to limit spending growth to not more than 3 percent, taking into account inflation and population.

“Some people question if it should grow even that much,” Lawson said. “But I’m a realist. Before you can run you have to be able to walk and we have yet to walk in terms of keeping spending at that 3 percent level.”

Ohio’s spending over the past 20 years was 17 percent over the rates of inflation and population, the report says.

But if the state loses population, should the spending decrease accordingly?

“A very cogent case can be made that that should happen,” Lawson said.

Overall, Ohio hasn’t lost population, “but in theory, if we do, we absolutely should reduce spending,” he said.
The second recommendation is to end corporate welfare, saving taxpayers $212.9 million.

The Piglet Book specifically names the Horseracing Development Fund, Agriculture Market Development fund and TourismOhio as examples of corporate welfare.

“You’re using a government entity to impose and collect taxes within an industry and then the government is paying to produce ads to promote the industry,” Lawson explained. “You don’t need the government to do that for you. If you want to spend that money, you can hire an advertising firm and pay them out of pooled resources from within the industry.”

Lawson said this type of “user tax” is better than using General Revenue Funds directly, but still is not something government should be doing.

“Why does it need to be funneled through a government entity? Just keep the government hands out of it and hire someone to do it for you,” he said.

It’s also duplicative.

“Attractions and areas have their own advertising budgets. Look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Hocking Hills area. There are numerous entities and chambers of commerce that do advertising all the time,” Lawson said. “Let thousands of marketing ideas bloom. It doesn’t need to be cycled through and have the government spend money on it.”

The third recommendation is to end government advocacy and philanthropy, saving nearly $55.7 million.

The Ohio Arts Council, the report states, receives $20.9 million in income and sales tax revenue to distribute to artists and galleries, making the state the “arbiter of taste and culture.” It says Ohioans are “more than capable” of choosing what artists to support “without the government’s guidance.”
Lawson said there were a lot of examples they could have highlighted but they tried to be pragmatic.

“We understand that changing minds on this is not something that is likely to occur overnight,” he explained. “It comes down to the core functions of government and if you decide something really is a core function, then how are you going to sustain the growth in funding that it will require?”

He says it really is about jobs and the quality of living in Ohio.

“The expanding scope of government makes cutting spending harder,” Lawson said. “As long as we keep spending like we are, when the next recession hits we’ll end up cutting a lot more of government in order to meet the budget, or we’re going to have to raise taxes and eliminate all the reforms we’ve made to date.”

Lawson said the recommendations are intended to put Ohio’s budget in the best position to weather future recessions so that the current economic growth can continue.

“We’re still not where we should be in terms of job growth,” he said. “We have some systemic problems we have yet to address and we cannot address those if we simply keep spending.”

Lawson also had a recommendation for Ohioans.

“Keep your eyes on government,” he said. “This book is just a snapshot of what is going on. We’re spending more than we need to – at all levels of government.”

But, Lawson warned, it will be a tough road to follow.

“There are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who get it, even if they don’t always agree on the specifics,” he said. “At least there will be a dialogue and an effort at making the big-picture reforms so we can be freer and have a more prosperous Ohio.”

Gov. John Kasich’s office did not respond to a request to comment on the report and the recommendations.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Toledo pools will open - without government funding

Apparently, the City of Toledo has learned a valuable lesson:  It open city pools and doesn't have to spend limited tax dollars to do so.

According to today's paper, six pools and a splashpad, that were not funding in the city's 2015 budget, will open due to an influx of donations from companies, unions and others.

The Blade also reported that the cost of opening the pools this year would be around $400,000.

As I've previously noted on this blog, the pools are a huge money drain for the city and even the paper and administrators have finally noted that attendance has been falling over the years.

According to City of Toledo Finance Director George Sarantou, last year the pools too in only $11,437 leaving a deficit of about $350,000.

According to District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski, that's $3,000 per child who used the pools.

The city needs to do more of this and find ways to NOT spend tax dollars, especially since it's still raiding the Capital Improvement Plan funds to pay for every day expenses.


Tuesday, April 07, 2015

QOTD: Core beliefs


"These things I believe: 
That government should butt out.
That freedom is our most precious commodity and if we are not eternally vigilant, government will take it all away.
That individual freedom demands individual responsibility. 
That government is not a necessary good but an unavoidable evil. 
That the executive branch has grown too strong, the judicial branch too arrogant and the legislative branch too stupid. 
That political parties have become close to meaningless. 
That government should work to insure the rights of the individual, not plot to take them away.
That government should provide for the national defense and work to insure domestic tranquillity. 
That foreign trade should be fair rather than free. 
That America should be wary of foreign entanglements. 
That the tree of liberty needs to be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
That guns do more than protect us from criminals; more importantly, they protect us from the ongoing threat of government.
That states are the bulwark of our freedom. 
That states should have the right to secede from the Union. 
That once a year we should hang someone in government as an example to his fellows."


~  Lyn Nofziger

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Ohio should adopt education savings accounts


Photo Credit: Independent Institute
Let's face it, the demographics are not on our side.

Based upon 2030 census projections, there will be a large increase in the number of K-12 students in the United States.  The under-18 population is projected to increase 11.3 million by 2030, while Ohio's youth population is projected to decrease by about 100,000.

But that doesn't mean Ohio won't have issues with education because the over-65 population is going to continue it's current trend in the state and increase.

And what happens when the Baby Boomers (born between 1944 and 1964) reach 65? They become eligible for property tax breaks, homestead exemptions and, because they are on "fixed" incomes, less likely to support increased school funding via levies.

The bottom line is that school districts will have less funding while many in the state see an increase in the number of students.

The same old - same old, won't work ... which is why Ohio should follow Arizona and Florida in establishing an educational savings account (ESA) for all K-12 children.

Ohio is already known for the number of school choice options it has available, but an ESA could replace them all and give all parents (not just certain ones) a choice for their child's education.

ESAs work very much like a 529 college savings account, except it's the state, not the parent, adding funds to the account.

It works like this:

The state sets an amount of funding for each school-aged child.  Sometimes it's the exact amount the state would give a local school on a per-pupil basis; sometimes it's a little bit less.

The money is deposited into an ESA account and the parent can draw upon those funds for certain approved items - everything from private school tuition to tutoring to transportation to special enrichment classes that aren't offered at the local school. They can even use it for college classes while still in high school.

Anything not spent in a year rolls over and accumulates in the child's name.

The states already operate a similar system with food stamps, giving out debit-like cards to be used only for approved purchases, so this concept shouldn't be too hard to implement.

Yes, there are a lot of stories about waste, fraud and abuse in the food stamp EBT card system, but the lessons states have learned about preventing those should help them devise a similar robust system for ESAs.

Plus, having Arizona and Florida to turn to, there will be even more good advice on how to design and implement such a system in Ohio.

The future educational options should be more than just government-funded coupons that allow parents to choose between public and private schools.

We need to think about education as more than just an assembly line that we run kids through based upon their physical age.  ESAs would work well to allow parents to tailor the education to the needs of the child.

Of course there will be a lot of opposition to such a massive change - primarily from public school districts who have had a monopoly on education for so long.

But if those public school districts - teachers and administrators - really want what's best "for the children," they should allow every child to have a choice and then compete with the other options for the students.

It's certainly doable and it would allow children to have the education that best suits them - but it would take considerable political will and personal strength to make such a massive change in the structure of K-12 education.

Does Ohio have such a champion?  Probably not now. But, as the demographics show, we're going to have to do something soon or the children will be the ones who suffer the most.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Ohio looks to overhaul charter school laws


Some of the issues raised in a lawsuit
against White Hat Management are
addressed in a bill to overhaul Ohio's
charter school law.
A series of events, including a lawsuit, has led the Ohio General Assembly to propose updating the laws on charter schools.

Saying they wanted to address issues of transparency and accountability, Rep. Mike Dovilla and Rep. Kristina Roegner, both Republicans, introduced House Bill 2 which would significantly alter the relationships charter schools have with their sponsors and management companies.

Much of the language was the result of an existing lawsuit pending before the Ohio Supreme Court which deals with ownership of the equipment in a charter school.

The case is Hope Academy Broadway Campus, et al. versus White Hat Management Company et al.

The main question is whether White Hat, which Hope Academy hired to perform day-to-day management of the charter school, owns the equipment purchased for the school, or whether White Hat was merely acting as the agent for the school which would then have ownership of all goods purchased on its behalf.

And since charter schools - also called community schools - are public, there is another issue of whether or not management companies can be audited for how the public dollars are spent.

It's an intriguing case and it has implications far beyond the 10 charter schools that are part of the lawsuit. The Ohio Supreme Court ruling can have implications for any company receiving public dollars to perform a public service.

But the General Assembly didn't want to wait and thought it best to address this - and other - issues in an overhaul of the law regarding charter schools, their management companies and their sponsors.

Just to clarify, there are three entities in a public charter school. A sponsor is a local school district, an educational service center, a university or a non-profit entity. Each charter school has a governing authority which is usually a board, like traditional public schools have elected school boards.

Then there is the operator. An operator can be an individual or company that performs day-to-day management services via a contract with the sponsor; or it can be a non-profit organization that provides programming oversight, again through a contract with the sponsor, though it retains the ability to end the contract if the school fails to meet its quality standards.

Under H.B. 2, a low-performing charter school would not be allowed to change sponsors without the prior approval of the Ohio Department of Education.

It also addresses various contractual issues:

  • Contracts between sponsors and the boards must contain performance standards, including the applicable state report card measurements.
  • Contracts between sponsors and the boards must include an addendum with a detailed description of each facility and mortgage data (principle, interest and name of lender).
  • The financial plan in the contract between sponsor and board is subject to review and approval by the Ohio Department of Education and must include the most recent financial statements for the school.
  • All new and renewed contracts between the board and the operator must include provisions that address early termination of the contract, the notification procedures and a listing of facilities and property ownership.
  • Sponsors must provide a yearly report of the amount and type of expenditures made to provide oversight and technical assistance to each school.
  • Requires copies of financial and enrollment records be sent monthly to the sponsor, the board members and the fiscal officer.

There are also a number of provisions that address conflict of interest:

  • Employees of a school district, an educational center or a vendor who has a contract with a district or service center cannot serve on the board of a charter school for which the district or educational center is a sponsor.
  • Charter school board members will have to file a yearly disclosure statement that identifies any potential conflicts of interest.
  • Requires that the designated fiscal officer of a charter school be employed or under a contract with the board of the school.

The bill mandates that the state Department of Education develop, maintain and publish an annual performance report for all operators of schools in the state. It also requires the DOE, by the end of the year, to make recommendations regarding performance standards for charter schools for which a majority of their population is students with disabilities, and determine the feasibility of removing such schools' exemption from permanent closure.

Not all the provisions in the bill will make it through committees in the House and Senate.  In fact, during sponsor testimony in the House Education Committee, Dovilla called the bill a "starting point" for discussion about the overhaul of charter schools.

And there are a number of ideas which the House Education Committee members asked about, including whether or not the law to close charter schools that score a D or F three years running should apply to traditional district schools; whether there should be a residency requirement for the charter school board members, and whether charter school board members who are volunteers can be subjected to the same disclosure and conflict-of-interest rules as traditional school board members.

While the bill has generally been well-received, with the understanding that some provisions may be added and subtracted, one group thinks it doesn't go far enough in spelling out ownership of the assets used in a charter school.

Sandy Theis, executive director of ProgressOhio, a left-leaning policy group, said that requiring contracts "to delineate which gets what assets after the contracts expire...misses the point: Neither should own the assets. They belong to the taxpayers who paid for them."

Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins also called the bill a starting point. Her organization and Innovation Ohio spelled out three principles they have for overhauling charter schools:

  • the accelerated closing of failing charter schools
  • making charter schools subject to the same public records laws and traditional public schools
  • funding public charters in a way that does not penalized district schools

Rep. Bill Hayes, who chairs the House Education Committee, said he'd support faster closings if the state could identify a school that was actually failing. He also said he'd be interested in applying those same standards to traditional public schools.

But Higgins said No Child Left Behind already has standards for closing district schools that are failing and that any state law would have to align with the federal one.

But even with NCLB, there are still public schools that are failing:  Pickett Academy in Toledo is one example.

The Ohio Association of Charter School Authorizers supports the bill, but with a few reservations. Peggy Young, president of OACSA, urged members to judge sponsors on their outcomes, not just on how they spend money.

The bill is still pending in the House Education Committee.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

If Pickett were a charter school, it'd be closed by now


"Whenever people talk glibly of a need to achieve educational "excellence," I think of what an improvement it would be if our public schools could just achieve mediocrity."  ~  Thomas Sowell


Toledo Public School's Pickett Academy has been in
academic emergency or failing for more than a decade.
I recently came across this quote and thought it was perfect to explain what is going on at Pickett Academy, formerly known as Pickett Elementary, in Toledo, Ohio.

But it's also a good quote to explain what's going on in Ohio in general as the legislature considers new rules for charter schools.

Let's start with Pickett.

Pickett used to be kindergarten through sixth grade, but was recently changed, as part of an overall restructuring of the Toledo Public Schools. It now goes to eighth grade.

For more than 12 years, Pickett has been failing. It was in academic emergency under the old state grading system and has had a failing grade since the new school report cards have been issued.

In 2011-12, the school met none of the performance indicators and did not meet the "adequate yearly progress" indicator.

In 2012-13, under the new letter grades, the school received a D on its Performance Index (which measures the test results of every student) and an F on Indicators Met (which tells how many students passed the state tests at a minimum level).

In order to "meet" an indicator, at least 75% of students must pass the test.

The school met zero - none - of the 14 indicators during the 2012-13 school year.

It also scored an F for Gap Closing, which tells if every student is succeeding regardless of income, race, culture or disability. The state set an Annual Measurable Objective of 83.4% in math and 78.5% in reading. Pickett's overall score in reading was 53.3% and was 36.4% in math.

So what happened in the 2013-14 school year?  More of the same.

Another D on the Performance Index. Another F on Indicators Met with, again, none of the 14 indicators achieved. And another F in Gap Closing.

You would think, with scores and grades like these over more than a decade, that students who would attend Pickett would be taking advantage of the Ohio EdChoice Scholarship.

The EdChoice Scholarships give options to kids who are, or would be attending, an underperforming school.  Parents can use the scholarship to send their child to participating private schools.

So how many students who would have been stuck in this particular failing school have opted for a better education?

That's a good question. According to a spokesman at the Ohio Department of Education, data on the number of EdChoice Scholarships issued by underperforming school is available. As soon as they email the information, it will be included in this blog post.

Regardless of the number of students leaving, it is certain that not all students at Pickett are doing poorly, just that a vast majority of them are.

Which brings us back to the quote - and the Ohio General Assembly.

There are a lot of people up in arms about the performance of charter schools - which are also public schools - especially after a pretty negative report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Fordham was the first non-profit agency to be approved by the Ohio Department of Education as a sponsor of community schools. Fordham's report, released in December, said that "too often Ohio's charters have produced mediocre results" and that, on average, charter school students "make less academic progress than their district counterparts."

Fordham made several recommendations for improvement and some are included in House Bill 2 and as part of Gov. John Kasich's budget recommendations.

Certainly, poorly performing schools should not be allowed to continue to crank out poorly educated students. And an examination of public charter schools is not only valid, but necessary.  Parents need this information - and information on traditional public schools - so they can make good decisions for their children and find a school that best fits them.

But among all the angst and hand-wringing over charter schools that don't do well after three years, a lot of politicians, teachers unions, special interest groups and lobbyists are ignoring schools like Pickett that have been failing students for more than a decade.

In fact, if Pickett had been held to the same standard as existing charter schools, it would have closed quite some time ago.

For instance, in the 2013-14 school year, charter schools serving up to third grade would automatically be closed if, for two of the last three years, the school had been in Academic Emergency. While Pickett now serves up to eighth grade, it's been in Academic Emergency for over a decade.

The problem isn't that so many kids are stuck in failing schools without options, or that charter schools aren't doing as well as other public schools, or that parents cannot afford a private school education - though all these are, indeed, problems parents and communities face.

The bigger problem is that the various school options are not held to similar, much less the same, standards.

According to a December 2011 report from the Center for Education Reform, between 1997 and 2011, nearly 100 (99 to be exact) charters were closed for failing to meet their obligations. A January 12 Columbus Dispatch article noted that closings are now over 150.

There are 233 schools on the current List of Designated Public Schools, the schools that are underperforming and have been failing for at least two of the last three years.  Students who attend, or would be slated to attend, those schools are the ones eligible for EdChoice Scholarships.

Interestingly, the List has a "Closing" column, which identifies schools that are in the process of being closed.

Guess how many of those 233 failing schools are closing.

None.

THAT is the problem. Traditional public schools which are failing students are allowed to remain open while the other public education option - charter schools - must close when they fail.

Now, if the traditional public schools weren't failing overall, or just failing to meet the needs of specific students, there wouldn't been a "need" for other options, though there would still exist a "want."

No school can be all things for all students, which is why school choice is so important to parents and students.

But if we're not going to open the doors so wide that ALL students can have a choice, then the least we can do is ensure that traditional public schools are treated the same as charter public schools and close down the ones that are continually failing to meet even the most basic of standards - like Pickett.

After all - it's "for the children."


Monday, January 26, 2015

National School Choice Week 2015

It's National School Choice Week - a week dedicated to celebrating options students have for an education.

Lest you think this is all about charters, private schools or home-schooling, please remember that charter schools in Ohio are public schools and that choosing to send a child to a traditional public school is still a choice that many parents make.

There's nothing wrong with any of the choice options available to parents these days and since it's supposed to be "for the children," what would make more sense than to allow each child to have the education that best suits them?

That's what school choice is all about:  finding the best fit for a child, regardless of what that fit might be.

Maybe some day we can let actually let the public dollars spent on a child for their education follow the child.

Imagine if K-12 school funding worked more like public funding of higher education - where a grant amount was determined based on a family's financial information and then the children could use that designated amount at any college or university that accepted them.

Under such a scenario, elementary and high schools would compete for students, offering a variety of tracks mirroring the interest of the kids while still ensuring that state minimum requirements were achieved.

Arizona did something like this with their Education Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and it's working well enough that other states could easily learn from them how to duplicate their success.

The state deposits educational funds directly into an account controlled by the parent. The parents can choose how to spend the funds using a type of debit card that is coded to allow its usage only for pre-approved expenses.
Parents can use it for tuition at any school, to pay for college or university courses while their child is still in high school, for online education, certified tutors, testing preparation like for SATs, or even a la carte public school courses (foreign languages, for example). They also have the choice to not spend it and put it toward a future college education. Anything not used in a year is allowed to accumulate.
Think about how food stamp EBT cards work and you'll have a good understanding about how the Arizona system works, except it's education items that are being purchased rather than food.
This is just one example of the many innovative ways parents, politicians and policy-makers are looking at providing a variety of educational opportunities for children today.

So celebrate your school choice options and special congrats to our state of Ohio which leads the nation in education scholarship options!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Who is responsible for your health?


This ad is from the CDC which is no longer
just the Centers for Disease Control,but is
now the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention.
Forgive me for getting this wrong, but I always thought I - and I alone - was responsible for my health.

Sure, genetics play a role, but whether I was overweight or underweight , ate junk food or fruits and vegetables, exercised or not ... all that was on me.

Apparently I'm wrong.  Well, at least according to today's lead editorial in The Blade.

Yes, they do say our individual health is partially on us and the decisions we make, but they also say:

"The report notes that Ohio ranks near the top in the percentage of its adults who smoke, and of children exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Such things are as much a matter of individual responsibility, or its absence, as of inadequate public policy.
Really?  Inadequate public policy is to blame if you or I smoke?

Who DOESN'T know that smoking is bad for you?

In fact, people who do smoke, do so in spite of the fact that they know it's bad for them and for anyone who lives in their smoke-filled house.

How can inadequate public policy be to blame for that?

They even write:

"But it isn't just the responsibility of government to make Ohioans healthier and more productive."

Hmm... I guess I missed that responsibility in the U.S. Constitution as well as the state constitution.

For the record, I don't smoke - never have.  Neither has my husband. My sister does, but she doesn't smoke in my house and has never asked to do so.  Most smokers are considerate in that respect.

But no amount of government spending is going to make her stop. In fact, I doubt that anyone has decided to stop smoking because government spent money on an advertisement bemoaning the ill effects of the practice.

People stop smoking when THEY want to. They are the ones who must make the choice, which means it is entirely an individual responsibility and action.

The primary reason for the editorial is to call for "greater public investment" - that means spending - arguing that the more government spends on preventive care, the less it should end up spending on actual, more expensive, care as a result of bad habits.

You see, the 'logic' is that if government spends more money up front telling people how to be healthy, they'll have to spend less treating these people when they end up with costly diseases like cancer, heart disease, etc...

But first the people have to actually head the direction from the government to lead healthier lives - and that certainly isn't the case, at least, not for the majority of people.

There's an easy solution to the state spending so much money on actual care of illnesses that are preventable:  Don't.

What if the government warned people ahead of time that if they get cancer from smoking none of their health bills will be covered?  In fact, what if the government said that the cost of any illness or disease that was the result of self-inflicted activity wouldn't be covered?

Would people make better decisions knowing they'd be responsible for all the costs associated with bad habits, or that they might have to go without treatment if they couldn't afford it?

It's an interesting question and one that too few stop to consider.

But the government is all too happy to pay because, in doing so, they develop justification for telling you how to live. It is the 'logic' they use for controlling your life:  We're going to end of paying for your health care so we have the authority to tell you how to keep yourself healthy so we don't have to pay so much.

Oh, they might not say so in so many words, the bottom line is control - of your eating habits, exercise regimen and decisions.

Just look at Michele Obama's Healthy Hunger-Free Act which, as of a year ago, had 1 million kids leaving the school lunch line.

It doesn't stop.

And sadly, too many editorials are all to happy to jump on the bandwagon and advocate for even more government involvement in our daily lives, because (clearly) they know what is best and its for our own good.

Friday, January 09, 2015

News, frizzy hair solutions and hypocrisy


One of my favorite organizations is the Media Research Center - though most people have probably never heard of it.

Their sole mission, according to their website, is "to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media." They don't endorse candidates and they don't lobby for or against legislation.

And they can be pretty funny in fulfilling that mission as their Newsbusted comedy show demonstrates.

They're especially good at pointing out double standards and hypocrisy, as they did with the convening of the new Republican-controlled Congress.

First they point out how Good Morning America avoided any mention of the subject, but found plenty of time to feature a new solution to frizzy hair.

Now, you may argue that frizzy hair is more important than any mention of the makeup of the new Congress - and if you have frizzy hair, or occasional issues with such a problem as I do, the new solution may truly be the only news you're really interested in.

But a Google search for Good Morning America pops up this description of the broadcast:

Co-anchors report the morning's top headlines from a set in Times Square. The show features a combination of breaking news, interviews, in-depth reporting and weather. The program covers important issues with key figures from around the world and a wide spectrum of topics, including medicine, finance, consumer issues, computer technology, education and gardening.

hmmm...breaking news and in-depth reporting. But no news story on a new Congress?

George Stephanopoulos did mention it, warning that the new Congress would be confrontational, not cooperative, though cooperation was what the new Congress *should* do.

But in 2007 when the Democrats gained control of Congress and George W. Bush was president, the message was all about standing up to Bush and *forcing* him to go along with the Democrat agenda.  The word "impeachment" was used.

Talk about a double standard... and thank goodness we have MRC reminding us of the blatant bias.

As for me, I don't watch GMA, so I really couldn't care less about what they do, or don't, feature.  I prefer to read my news, checking multiple websites and articles from all political sides as part of my morning coffee routine.

But whether from a right-leaning or left-leaning source, I do ask one thing:  Don't be a hypocrite.

If something is "bad" when Republicans do it, it remains "bad" when Democrats do it, too.  If something is outrageous or an attack on liberty when Democrats do it, it is equally outrageous and an attack on liberty when Republicans do it.

If you condemn an act or decision or statement because you are opposed to it, you can't suddenly be all in favor of it simply because it is being said or done by someone with your same political affiliation or ideology.

It is the hypocrisy, more than anything, that completely destroys credibility, as ratings clearly show.


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

New Year, new posts, new Speaker of the House?


You've probably noticed that it's been a while since I posted an article here on Thurber's Thoughts. The truth is, I've been working - more than I would like - and it definitely cut into my time for commenting on things, especially things that really don't pay.

That whole "need to earn a living" thing really gets in the way of the fun stuff I like to do.

But it's a new year and I really don't want to end my Thurber's Thoughts blog, so I'm going to be posting here on a more regular basis.

In between my own posts, which are usually well-researched in order to give you information and/or perspectives on local issues that you're not getting elsewhere, I'll link to the posts being done on Ohio Watchdog, which is where I'm covering state and local issues.

I'll also do some mini commentaries - longer than the 140 characters allowed on Twitter, but less than what I'd normally do in a blog post.

I may even have some guest commentaries.

For today, here is something that my friend and National Review columnist Jim Geraghty included in his morning email about the upcoming vote for Speaker of the House.

"The outlook for Boehner would be a lot cloudier if there was an alternative who was well-liked by about 218 or so of his colleagues and who seemed genuinely interested in the job. This person would have to enjoy the trust and faith of the conservatives, while also reassuring less conservative members that his agenda for floor votes wouldn’t be endangering them. He would have to have a good feel for the political instincts and worldviews of just about every member, and know their passions and idiosyncrasies. And on just about every issue under the sun, he would have to know exactly what kind of a deal a majority of his members could live with, and what they couldn’t.
"It’s a tall order. And if Boehner wins today, it may very well be that for all of his flaws, a majority of his colleagues aren’t yet convinced that any other member can handle that task any better than Boehner can right now."
Prediction:  John Boehner will still be Speaker of the House at the end of the day.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Grading state voucher programs - how does your state rank?


By Maggie Thurber | Franklin Center School Choice Fellow

Want to know how state voucher programs stack up? The Center for Education Reform has the answer.

In their new report, School Choice Today:  Voucher Laws Across the States Ranking and Scorecard 2014, CER takes a look at the 15 voucher programs currently in existence and gives them a grade. 

There are three As, three Bs, seven Cs and two Ds.

It’s the first analysis of its kind, providing a state-to-state comparison of the various voucher laws and builds on the work CER has done to rank charter school laws and tax credit-funded scholarship programs.

“Having a voucher law on the books is a good start, but not enough to make sure students are actually benefitting from school choice programs,” Kara Kerwin, CER president said in a press release. 

“Policy design is critical, but the true strength of school choice voucher programs depends heavily on implementation.”

The state voucher programs were evaluated in four areas:
  • Student eligibility requirements
  • Program Design
  • Preservation of private school autonomy
  • Student participation

“From the types of students eligible to the number of regulations imposed on private schools, each element of a voucher program’s design impacts how effectively the voucher truly empowers parents with the ability to choose the best school for their child,” Brian Backstrom, CER senior policy advisor and author of the report, said.

Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin earned an A grade for their programs.

With 31 out of 50 total points, Indiana offers a universal voucher program available to all students and imposes no limits on the number of vouchers awarded. But it ranked second worst in the nation when it comes to infringing upon the private schools’ autonomy because it mandates course content and allows government observation of classes.

Ohio earned 30 points for what the report called a “piecemeal” approach to vouchers with five different programs. But its top ranking for student participation was praised as a “worthy achievement.”

Wisconsin, home of the oldest voucher program in the county, also earned 30 points, with its strong Milwaukee/Racine programs offering choice to 12 percent of the state’s school-aged population.

Washington, D.C., Arizona and North Carolina tied for fourth place with 27 points, earning them a B grade.

The D.C. program has a high percentage of children receiving vouchers, but its strict income eligibility threshold is the lowest in the country which limits the program’s reach, the report said.

For the 2014-15 school year, North Carolina’s program got twice as many applications as there were vouchers available. The state is currently defending a lawsuit against the voucher program which is on hold due to an injunction halting the distribution of the funds.

Arizona’s personal education accounts worked so well it was expanded in 2013. The state deposits educational funds directly into an account controlled by the parents who can choose how to spend the funds using a type of debit card that is coded to allow its usage only for pre-approved expenses. The accounts can be used for tuition at any school, to pay for college or university courses while their child is still in high school, for online education, certified tutors, testing preparation like for SATs, or even a la carte public school courses (foreign languages, for example). They also have the choice to not spend it and put it toward a future college education. Anything not used in a year is allowed to accumulate.

It’s a popular idea. Florida just implemented a similar one and Delaware just proposed their own program based on the concept.

Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah and Mississippi all earned a C grade with scores of between 19 and 23 points.

Louisiana imposes “such significant regulatory intrusion” that it ends up with a C. Their regulations are such that new private schools are prohibited from participating.

The ranking for Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Utah and Mississippi are due primarily to the fact that their programs are only for special needs students.

Colorado’s program is tied up in legal wrangling, but even if it were implemented, it only offers 500 vouchers for the more than 62,000 eligible children.

Vermont and Maine both earned D grades because they don’t offer a modern-day voucher program, but merely a method by which students in areas and towns without any district school systems can get an education.

The report states that legislators considering vouchers or modifying their existing programs “would be well-served by examining the design elements that have led to the success of several state 
programs, and the components of state voucher program laws that are holding some states back.”

With “reliable policy blueprints and visible implementation of strong voucher programs, more state leaders need to step up to the plate in order to grow and expand school choice opportunities across the U.S. so more children have access to options that best meet their individual learning needs,” Kerwin said.




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

School voucher programs save billions, audit shows


By Maggie Thurber | Franklin Center School Choice Fellow

A recent audit of 10 school voucher programs shows a cumulative savings of at least $1.7 billion since the first program was established in the 1990-91 school year.

The Freidman Foundation for Educational Choice wanted to know if founder Milton Friedman’s concept of school vouchers would not only expand personal freedom and improve achievement, but also save money.

To find out, they took a “cautious, rational estimate of the overall fiscal effects of school voucher programs” established over the last 24 years. They warn that the audit is not a to-the-penny calculation, a look at the average amount of the vouchers and the current costs of educating students in the public school system. If the voucher amount is less than the per-pupil educational costs, there is a savings.



In conducting the audit, the Foundation looked at voucher programs that had been in place for at least three years and only went up to the 2010-11 school year, in order to account for any lag in reporting.

Three Ohio programs, the Cleveland Scholarship Program, the Autism Scholarship Program and the Educational Choice Scholarship Program made the cut.  Also included were two programs from Florida and one each from Washington, D.C., Georgia, Louisiana, Utah and Wisconsin.

Over 500,000 students received vouchers with a total savings since their inception of $1,703,864,521.

Their audit also showed that the pace of the savings growth has outpaced the growth of student participation, “rising 675-fold since 1990.”

Many voucher opponents claim that money diverted to the voucher programs “steals” funds from public education. But most of the time, those arguments ignore the fact that when students leave the public system, the school district no longer has to expend costs to educate them, so there should be savings along with the transfer.

The audit also asks “(i)f  one is opposed to school choice because of its effect on the finances of local public schools, does it not also follow that he or she should favor prohibiting families from moving among public school districts?”

School funding is a complicated, with money from local taxpayers and property owners, state governments and the federal government, each often accompanied by various rules and regulations about how it can be used and for what services.  The audit does address many of these factors, including the recent decline in private school attendance. 

But even with all those other factors, the bottom line is that vouchers have saved taxpayers billions, savings which are certainly enough to justify their continued existence.


DC Opportunity Scholarship Program works


By Maggie Thurber | Franklin Center School Choice Fellow

In 2011, Congress passed the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act which reestablished the Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program for low-income families in the District.

The OSP provides tuition vouchers so that parents can send their kids to a private school.

While many states have such programs, this is the only one authorized by Congress and, as part of the Act, the U.S. Department of Education was required to evaluate the program.

The first year analysis was released in October – and it has a lot of good news for kids.

Because SOAR expanded the scholarship amounts, the types of students who receive priority for the scholarships and the accountability requirements for the private schools, the report looks at the program from 2004 to 2013 so there is some historical comparison.

The analysis addressed three questions:
  1. How many private schools participate and what are their characteristics?
  2. What is the nature of the demand for the program among eligible families and students?
  3. To what extent is the OSP enabling students to enroll in private schools?

It showed that more than half the private schools in the DC area participate in the program, though the percentage of participation has declined. The study concludes that the 2011 changes did not result in increased private school participation.

However, it also says that 52 schools currently participate, including 33 that have participated since the beginning in 2004. Nine schools that were part of the program transformed into public charter schools and were no longer eligible under OSP. It also found that four of the private schools closed during their participation. Only five private schools actually withdrew from the program.

Other findings about the schools show they added high school grades, are less likely to be religiously based, serve a small percentage of minority students and are more likely to have tuition rates higher than the scholarship amount.

The report also says the private schools have smaller class sizes, a smaller student enrollment and a higher proportion of white students than public schools. But according to program statistics for the 2013-2014 school year, 97.2 percent of OSP participants were African American and Hispanic.

What isn’t surprising is that applications for the program vary based upon available funding.

Most applications were filed the years the program was authorized, when new funding was first available. In other years, OSP funds were used to support continuing students or only replace those who left the program. Without additional funds for new applicants, it’s no wonder the applications were down.

But the report also notes that less than 5 percent of eligible families actually participate. Based on eligibility criteria, estimates say that about 53,000 children would qualify for scholarships. However, there were only 1,550 applicants in the first two years after the SOAR Act was passed.

The report suggests that demand for the scholarships is lagging.

But the American Federation for Children, a leading school choice advocacy organization, says that’s a false conclusion, noting that demand is not the same as applications.

“Applications and new enrollees are lagging because of restrictive implementation guidelines, such as prohibiting eligible children currently in private schools – including those with siblings in the program - from entering the program,” they state in a press release.

AFC also notes that thousands of families are on the waiting lists for charter schools in the District and that many of them are eligible for the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

“In addition,” AFC says, “the OSP new application period closes in late January, before the charter school application deadline, preventing hundreds if not thousands of eligible families from considering the OSP as an option.”

They also dispute the analysis which says that SOAR Act applicants are less likely to have attended a low-performing school or SINI, “schools in need of improvement.”

“During the 2013-14 school year, 98% of enrolled OSP students were otherwise zoned for a School in Need of Improvement (SINI),” AFC states.

“The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program continues to serve the city’s lowest-income families and produce remarkable results,” Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel to AFC and former member of the D.C. city council, said.

He also said that with some common sense modifications the OSP could be serving another 1,000 children in low-income families next year.


“For a program that has averaged a 93 percent graduation rate, with 90 percent of those graduates enrolling in college, and a 92 percent parent satisfaction rate since 2010, we should be doing everything humanly possible to enroll more kids in this life-changing program,” Chavous said.
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