Whichever side of the school choice debate you fall on, there was a rally for your side in Cleveland yesterday. Proponents of charter schools and vouchers commended the Ohio House for reinstating funding for the programs. Meanwhile, Cleveland schools and union officials had their own event praising the governor for his efforts to end most voucher programs. ideastream education reporter Dan Bobkoff reports.
School choice supporters rallied in the auditorium at Citizens Academy to reinforce lawmaker efforts to keep funding for charter schools.
Citizens is a nonprofit charter school on the edge of University Circle. Nearly all the school's students are African American and 80% of the school is economically disadvantaged. At least a couple hundred students and parents showed up to support the school they chose. Addressing the crowd of supporters, Republican House Speaker John Husted argued that school choice is about equity.
John Husted: I believe in America and I believe in Ohio that you have school choice if you can afford it. Because most people can move to a different place, a different school, a lot of people can, or they can send their children if they can afford it, but you know what, a lot of times families can't do that.
The Republican-controlled house reinstated funding for charter schools and vouchers after Governor Ted Strickland presented a budget that removed state support for the programs. The governor's budget would ban new charter schools and all for-profit charter schools, and end vouchers everywhere except Cleveland. Even though vouchers in Cleveland is safe, Citizens Academy founder Perry White is worried.
Perry White: I am nervous about the funding because I think there are a lot of people in the state who don't quite understand the great work that so many schools of choice are doing and paint everyone with such a broad brush.
While school choice supporters like Perry White were leading their battle cry on the east side, the opposition was out in force downtown.
Merle Johnson: Charter Schools a rich man scheme. The profits are its only dream. M-O-N-E-Y. M-O-N-E-Y. M-O-N-E-Y. There's no accountability.
School choice critics argue that charter schools suck money away from struggling public schools and into the pockets of executives who run charter schools which often have no unions or standardized curricula.
Supporting Strickland's proposals, about 150 students, teachers, and school board members convened outside the school board administration building, holding signs that called for an end to all charter schools-including those in cleveland - Cleveland Schools CEO Eugene Sanders was among them.
Eugene Sanders: We also think that public funds outta be spent in public education, not in vouchers or private entities.
Joanne DeMarco also came out to voice her support for Governor Strickland's moratorium on new charter schools. DeMarco heads the Cleveland Teachers Union.
Joanne DeMarco: The Cleveland teachers union believes in choice and options, but not this graft and corruption we have in charter schools.
With the governor and the House having staked out their opposing positions, the issue lies now with the state senate, which is controlled by Republicans. They were the main target for yesterday's demonstrations. The outcome remains in doubt.