If you’re looking for the latest and most innovative educational trends, you need look no further than Cleveland Schools. Charter schools, schools that are run privately, can be either non-profit or for-profit organizations, and can sometimes be selective of the students they accept. Charters in Cleveland schools often receive district money to run the school.
In Cleveland Schools, and indeed throughout the state of Ohio, charter schools are referred to as community schools. They are all independent, public schools. Even though they are funded by taxpayer money, they operate free from many of the rules and regulations that traditional public schools are obligated to follow. These Cleveland Schools are financed by a per-pupil allotment from the state tax funds, but do not tend to share in local property tax revenues. Parents of students within the Cleveland Schools district may choose to send their children to a charter, or community school free, of charge. These Cleveland Schools are also nonsectarian, and cannot refuse ANY students enrollment for any reason.
The Cleveland Schools’ board encourages families to make their decisions for the fall as soon as possible. In some cases, visits will be made to individual families who have not made their choice known. This will continue until all students in Cleveland Schools are enrolled in the school of their choice.
All around the country, charter schools have had their share of press. In some big cities, like Boston, where poverty-level school districts had been under serving minority students for years, charter schools have caught up with the other schools within four years, and continue to improve. Massachusetts has rigorous standards for its charter schools: it is cautious in approving schools, and maintains tough regulations for those schools. They are also willing to close the schools that just don’t work. In contrast, many educational experts describe Ohio’s charter school program as a “hastily assembled, poorly funded, and laxly regulated hodge-podge of educational dice rolls.”
More than half of the charter monies set aside for these community schools (Cleveland Schools included) is going to for-profit companies. In fact, the state “has an unusually heavy reliance on profit-seekers,” said Gary Miron, the Charter Evaluation Center’s chief of staff. “For-profit operators aren’t necessarily a problem,” Miron said, “as long as safeguards exist to ensure that they’re serving the public good, not just their own.” Unfortunately, that’s where Ohio’s charter schools, and those within the Cleveland Schools have fallen short.
The charter school movement in Ohio has been partisan, ideological, and divisive. Charter schools throughout Ohio and in Cleveland Schools were promoted as a way to sabotage urban public schools that many people thought to be hopeless. Ohio jumped into charters, trying to get as many up and running as possible. Unfortunately, officials just didn’t take the time to stop and think about how to make them work. According to Miron, “The result was inadequate funding, too rapid growth, ineffective oversight, and a lack of meaningful consequences for schools that simply ignored the rules.”
Attending a charter school within the Cleveland Schools district can be a rewarding experience for students and parents alike. It is extremely important, however, to go into it with one’s eyes open.