Policy statement by Dennis J. Kucinich
Friday, Feburary 2, 2018
Ohio public educational funding has been subverted by special interest groups and for-profit charter school management companies. Through campaign contributions they have, in the past decade, normalized the privatization of public education funding. This has led to the creation of an often substandard, for-profit system "education" system, using and misusing billions of dollars in public funds.
The normalization of what is essentially a wholly corrupt system constitutes one of the greatest scandals in the history of the state of Ohio because billions of public funds have been diverted away from public education to enrich private, for-profit enterprises.
Tax dollars voters directed to support local school districts are, through acts of the Ohio Legislature, being channeled to privately run charters. This includes online schools like ECOT whose for-profit management operators make millions in taxpayer-guaranteed profits with little oversight, transparency, and zero accountability.
Here is how the charter system works: A for-profit management company sets up a charter school or schools, appoints the board, and secures a sponsor. Then the for-profit management company executes a contract with the charter school board (that it appointed) which generally lets the for-profit management company retain the physical assets of the school and control up to 97% of the money the board receives for the education of the children. Under this situation the charter board has no control of the school.
When a public school student enrolls in the charter school, the charter school receives a guaranteed amount of money- approximately $6,000 per student. This results in a corresponding deduction from the educational budget of the local public school district. Once the state-ordered, for-profit charter school deduction is made, public school districts lose thousands of dollars in funding for each student who enrolls in the for-profit charter.
All funds can be used by the charter school to purchase slick advertisements, enticing parents to enroll their children in the charter school.All the while, the proprietors of for-profit charter schools contribute tens of thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of state politicians who created this system, maintain it, and promote it.
Each year about a billion dollars intended to fund neighborhood public schools goes instead to charter operations, many of which are under for-profit management.
How have public schools been forced to make up the difference? (1) Asking taxpayers of the local school district for an additional levy, increasing local property taxes or (2) reducing educational programs, staffing, and other resources or (3) a combination of both.
The beneficiaries of this system are (1) the operators of for-profit charters and (2) state public officials who receive a continuous flow of campaign funds whose source is, inevitably, public funds intended for public education. This is a monstrously corrupt system because it takes money from public school children and gives it to for-profit charter management companies who then contribute money to politicians to keep public tax dollars flowing their way.
For example, since the year 2000, the owner of ECOT (Educational Classroom of Tomorrow) donated at least $1.4 million dollars to Ohio public officials. ECOT has had the highest dropout rate of any school in Ohio. Prior to its recent implosion, ECOT, which at one point enrolled nearly 12,000 students, was scheduled to receive about $87.7 million this year from the state funding program. Last year ECOT obtained $104.3 million from the state.
This year, Fiscal 2018, Columbus Public Schools will lose almost $l50 million dollars (that's million) to the Charter School industry. In neighboring Madison County, in just one year, ECOT plus two other online schools took more than $725,000 from four Madison County schools.
Elsewhere, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education, Cleveland public schools will lose more than $129 million this year to charter schools. Cincinnati, more than $51 million. Toledo, more than $71 million. Dayton, more than $54 million. Youngstown, almost $19 million. Akron, more than $27 million.
Can there be a more blatantly corrupt, pay-to-play system which takes money away from financially strapped public school districts for the benefit of for-profit charter managers whose profits are protected by elected officials to whom they contribute?.
The state siphons money from public education budgets, gives the money to for-profit charter school operators who more often than not operate wholly inadequate schools, which can imposed an even greater disadvantage on low income families from predominantly minority communities.
At the same time, charter school children themselves often receive a sub-standard education, since the educational programs established within a for-profit charter school are seldom in compliance with state educational norms.
Although public school districts must ask local taxpayers to vote to approve additional tax levies for education, as a result of the actions of the Ohio Legislature, for-profit charter operators acquire the public funds from the local school district without a vote of the people. This must change.
Charter operators speciously maintain the funds they receive represent state money, not local school district funds. The truth, prior to this pay-to-play system, was that state public educational funds were directed to public school districts.
I will work to enact a #PowerToWeThePeople educational platform which enshrines local control of public education, and exorcises the corruption from the system. I will protect Ohio public educational funding and guard those tax dollars which local communities vote in support of public education. I will stop the pay-to-play corruption of educational system through the following action:
I will soon bring forth language for a constitutional amendment which will put charter schools under the control of local boards of public education. I will offer this for the consideration of Ohio taxpayers and all school districts, superintendents, treasurers, public school boards, teachers’ organizations, parent organizations and support groups, for the purpose of re-establishing local control of public education and asserting the primacy of local public education by empowering local school boards and local school districts to make local decisions affecting charter schools.
The Kucinich Plan for restoring local control over charter schools.
- The creation and oversight of all charter schools in Ohio will be the exclusive responsibility of the school board of each local school district which will be the sole governmental entity entitled to establish charter schools using public money.
- Payments of state funds to charter schools within a given school district will be the exclusive responsibility of local school boards, who may withhold the transfer of funds, should charter schools which exist in that district fail to meet the performance standards established by the local school board.
- Not-for-profit charter school boards will continue to serve in an advisory capacity with respect to individual charters within local jurisdictions, but all charter expenditures will be transparent and subject to the discretion of the local public school board.
- Voters within school districts will be ultimately empowered to decide whether or not they want their school tax dollars to be given to charters within their districts. No school using public money will be chartered in a school district without first obtaining the approval at a local educational option election, of a majority of voters within the district.
- Once a charter school is established, any assets owned or acquired by a charter school will be the property of the local public school district. Charter schools will not be permitted to purchase any goods or services from any company related to any charter principals, or to any officers or directors of the charter school.
- There will be no immunity protections for charter school administrators, who will be subject to liability for negligence and consumer fraud to students and their parents.
- Any local school board member, member of the General Assembly, or employee of the Ohio Department of Education who accepts any payment, gratuity, or campaign contribution with a value of more than one dollar, or any pecuniary benefit in excess of one dollar from the operator of a charter school or on behalf of such entities will be subject to forfeiting any state benefit, including salary and pension.
- I will submit to the legislature a proposal to return to the public election of all members of the state school board of education, consistent with state policy from 1956 to 1996.
- I will convene a Summit on Public Education, where we bring together local elected leaders, administrators, teachers, parents, community representatives, and students to identify those areas of public education that need improvement
And, finally, as a result of an Ohio Supreme Court decision commonly known as “DeRolph,” the General Assembly has been under a court order to develop and implement “a thorough and efficient system of common schools” not wholly dependent on local real estate taxes. Instead, the General Assembly and other state officials have created a thoroughly inefficient system of for-profit private schools that siphon off real estate tax dollars and other tax dollars. Because of the gravity and complexity of the DeRolph decision, I will defer further comment and recommendations to another time in the near future.
As Governor, until such time as the voters empower true local control, I will veto any budget which provides funding for charter schools, unless the charter is approved by the local public school board of education.
I will shine a light on the corrupt system that allows millions of taxpayer dollars to flow into the pockets of profiteering private charter operators, and then, into the political campaign coffers of politicians, all at the expense of local taxpayers, Ohio's children, and quality public education.
Public education has been the path to economic and social success for generations of Ohioans. I will seek to re-establish the right of every Ohio child to be able to attend fully funded, safe, secure, caring and nurturing public schools.