Charter School Reports Ask, Among Other Things, for Money To Be Thrown At Ohio’s Charters’ Problems

In a state where a mandate to have an unconstitutional public school funding formula overhauled is ignored for more than 15 years, how is it that a respected and reasonable charter school report recommends that more funding is needed for their schools to succeed?

Let’s unpack why this is such an odd and uncomfortable juxtaposition – and yet it has the potential to benefit all of public education if we had a few good, smart, honest education advocates from a variety of stakeholders who would demand and enforce implementation of charter school oversight and transparency. (I’d throw in the elimination of for-profit charters in Ohio too, if we’re really looking for the money pit.)

First, plug into any search engine the phrase, “throw money at problems” and see what comes up. Chances are more than half of the results returned will be about how we should not throw money at problems, and many of those will come in the context of political debates on how to tackle some issue. The Heritage Foundation, for example, says,

While the federal government does need to take action to better protect U.S. borders and enforce immigration laws, throwing money at the problem is not the solution, especially funding that exploits emergency spending provisions in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011.

Likewise, we’ve often heard this about public education. I’d never heard of the website, “State Budget Solutions” before doing a search on the aforementioned phrase plus the word “education,” but there they are with an article from just two years ago called, “Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working.”  On their blogroll we see familiar entities like Ohio’s the Buckeye Institute, the previously noted Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, the Drudge Report and the Franklin Center – all entities often viewed as leaning right or libertarian.

Then, consider this, from Educate for Texas (also something I’d never heard of before doing an Internet search), “Does ‘Throwing Money at the Problem’ Actually Work?”:

“You can’t just keep throwing money at the problem” is a phrase you often hear when the topic of school funding comes up. If you listen closely you’ll hear various groups, legislators, and taxpayers parrot this now-common refrain as if it were gospel. But, have you ever considered the validity of this claim? Is it true or has it just been repeated so often that it’s become the conventional wisdom? Fortunately the facts are in and we no longer have to speculate about whether “throwing money at the problem” is truth or mere rhetoric.

So when I read about the recommendation from a couple of very recent and reasonable reports on Ohio charter schools, I couldn’t quite sync their pursuit of more public money with this history of the rhetoric about how you don’t just throw money at problems.

The reality in Ohio is that our public education system has been and is both horrifically and inequitably underfunded. So now, these reports that focus on charters, appear to be saying, the charters are underfunded and suffering in their ability to succeed because of that underfunding, too.

The reports do identify numerous other problems with Ohio’s charters, and these efforts have received positive and wide recognition, as they should. They are not timid in calling out the worst that exists in the Ohio charter school landscape (and noting the excellent ones, many of which are located in Cleveland).

However, regarding the reports’ conclusion that charter schools’ success depends upon receipt of more money, I am left wondering:

How can we leverage the reports’ acknowledgement of the role funding plays in the success of schools so that we can 1) put to rest the old and incorrect rhetoric about not throwing money at problems, and 2) leverage the reports’ own words about the primary role of funding in education to the benefit of all public school kids, and not (absolutely not) exclusively to the charters, as the reports would most likely want us to conclude?

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