May 3, 2021
Education Advocacy: 4 Issues We’re Following in Cleveland
Updated May 5, 2021
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools, our staff and board members will formally evaluate the progress we’ve made and our role as education advocates. Like many of you — equity is at the forefront of our mission. The first step toward creating a more equitable future for all Cleveland families is to ensure that every child has access to fully funded, high-quality schools.
Questions that we hope to answer in the coming months:
How do we measure equity in education?
What does equity in education mean for Cleveland families?
How can we ensure that Cleveland residents have a say in the policies and decisions that impact their child’s education?
Policy Issues that Cleveland education advocates should follow:
During the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s recent legislative update, CEO Eric Gordon shared facts about the disproportionate financial burden that affects CMSD based on the Cleveland Scholarship Program funding model, which pays up to $6,000 a year for Cleveland students’ tuition at private schools.
As it stands currently, the Cleveland Metropolitan School district is responsible for an excessive burden of costs for the Cleveland Scholarship Program as compared to other urban school voucher programs. And these costs have dramatically increased in the past few years, resulting in a “double whammy” of lost student enrollment and millions paid out in vouchers. Gordon has asked state leadership to consider transferring Cleveland to a funding model that is similar to the state’s EdChoice voucher program, which would enable the district to qualify for a lower percentage of the shared cost, noting that current students should not lose their vouchers under any updates to the plan.
The “Fair School Funding Plan,” currently in consideration as House Bill 1 (Cupp/Patterson) in the Ohio General Assembly, is explained in this article from Policy Matters Ohio, which outlines the compound challenges of insufficient state funding and outdated formulas for how schools are funded. The Transformation Alliance is monitoring the new iteration of the Cupp-Patterson bill. We are especially interested in disconnecting funding for charter schools from the districts' bottom line. House Bill 1 has been added to the current biennial budget bill, which is now being considered in the Ohio Senate.
The Digital Divide
House Bill 2 (Carfagna/Stewart), passed by both the House and Senate, expands and funds increasing broadband access to all Ohio communities. Still, it does not address the cost of internet services, which continue to be a barrier to access for many Cleveland families. "The city of Cleveland is the worst-connected city in America, an industry report shows," State Sen. Sandra Williams (D., Cleveland) said. "...If we're expecting people to go to school virtually, if we're expecting people to attend doctor's appointments virtually, and if we're expecting people to work virtually, we need to do something to make sure that they can afford broadband in their homes." Learn more.
While we don’t often think of transportation as a core issue concerning school access, the families we work with consistently say it’s a primary concern for school choice. There are several transportation provisions in HB 110 (State Transportation Budget) passed by the Ohio House of Representatives on April 21, 2021. They have a potential impact on school bus transportation, and we will continue to follow and assess the impact of these changes on Cleveland students and families.
State Report Card Reform
There are two competing versions of state report card reform in the Ohio General Assembly: House Bill 200 (Jones/Robinson) and Senate Bill 145 (Brenner). The Ohio Department of Education provides this side-by-side comparison document of the two bills, taking into account concerns for equity in school quality reporting, which historically puts high-poverty districts at a disadvantage.
Cleveland Transformation Alliance continues to improve the community review process that families rely on for school choice. We are in the process of researching best practices nationally for community ratings and will continue to make site updates to our online school profiles and the school quality guide based on what families tell us is important to them.