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Ohio education experts unsure of future with Trump as president-elect

Posted at 7:00 AM, Nov 20, 2016

Ohio education officials and experts aren’t completely sure what to make of President-elect Donald Trump’s education plans just yet, but it’s left officials divided on how it’ll affect education in Ohio.

In early September, Trump said he would push for a $20 billion grant program to let students and their parents choose from more charter schools and magnet schools versus traditional public schools.

Private sponsors fund charter schools, though they do receive some taxpayer funds in Ohio. 

Trump has also proposed downsizing the U.S. Department of Education, or even completely eliminating it. Details on this proposal haven’t materialized yet.

“One thing we know it means is change again,” Dr. Gail Kist-Kline, Superintendent of Mason City Schools, said. “And the uncertainty of that change is problematic because we’ve had so much change over the last five years.”

More investment in charter schools worries Kist-Kline because she doesn’t see investing more money as the solution to fixing what she sees as “failing” charter schools.

No charter school sponsors in Ohio received the Ohio Department of Education's top rating of “exemplary” in the its most recent evaluation of charter school sponsors on financial and academic performance; 21 sponsors of charter schools received a “poor” rating.

While Trump’s plans wouldn’t affect the decision-making power that the Ohio Department of Education would have, the amount of federal funding that public school districts get per pupil could change drastically, Kist-Kline said.

“We have to hold them to the standards first that our public schools are held to on a daily basis," Dr. Keith Kline, Superintendent at West Clermont School District, said. “They don’t have the same expectation or demands, or the level of expectation that we do in our public schools.”

Some political analysts have speculated that a large portion of the $20 billion grant program would come from the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is used to fund education for poor children. But that isn’t guaranteed to happen either.

“I still think there’s going to be a huge push in Congress to save those kinds of funding for low-income students,” Chad Aldis, spokesman for the pro-charter school think-tank Fordham Foundation, said. “It just might change the way it’s done. The states might have more discretion.”

The proposed grant program could potentially be a huge boost for charter schools in Ohio, allowing them to be competitive with public schools on teacher salary, to keep teachers in a particular school longer, Aldis said.

"We’ve never been an organization that just blindly says, 'If you get more dollars, the quality will improve,'" Aldis said. “Ohio has provided the state with lots of opportunities with school choice, and if there’s a way to strengthen some of those programs, then I would think Ohio would follow that course.”

The Ohio Department of Education declined to comment.

Liam Niemeyer is a fellow with the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at liamnmeyer@gmail.com.