It has been a long time since the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber plan to consolidate school administrations has been in the news, but based on reports from Oberlin and Baldwin-Wallace colleges, it might be time to re-introduce the idea.
We are talking about the part of the Chamber plan that calls for using money saved to pay the tuition of every local high school graduate who attends an institution of higher learning in Trumbull, Mahoning or Columbiana counties.
Not long ago, Oberlin High School in northern Ohio near Sandusky was rated one of the worst in the state according to the annual Department of Education report card. Oberlin College then began offering free tuition to all qualified Oberlin High School graduates. Tuition over four years at the college is more than $171,000.
Keep in mind that Oberlin College is a prestigious, highly selective institution that admits only about 30 percent of its applicants. This year, 67 percent of the Oberlin High School grads that applied to the college were accepted. Oberlin High is now ranked excellent by the education department and Oberlin is the only district in Ohio that offers International Baccalaureate at every grade level.
Oberlin schools saw a renewed interest in education from parents and students and the town saw an influx of families as a result of the Partnership Scholarship Program.
Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Cleveland, which serves a disproportionate number of poverty-stricken students from broken homes in one of the most academically dismal districts in the U.S., saw its academics boosted by a similar arrangement. In 2003, Baldwin-Wallace began offering free tuition to Martin Luther King Jr. graduates.
The beleaguered high school now has 33 students attending B-W, and the first two will graduate this month.
The Regional Chamber proposes consolidating the administrations of every district in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties into three countywide administrations. Every board of education, every school and every athletic team would remain. It estimates that districts would save so much money that they could pay the tuition of every graduate who attended a local institution of higher education.
After seeing how this type of offer reinvigorated schools like Oberlin, Martin Luther King Jr., and even entire communities in other places, such as Kalamazoo, Mich., it's time to have a serious discussion about how to pull it off here.