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Taking school funds won’t solve problem

Punishing underperforming school districts by taking away taxpayer funds will not help solve the problem.

In fact, the result could be the very opposite. We believe cutting funding from school districts that are struggling in their academic assessments will only further exacerbate the problem.

More than a third of the state’s 608 school districts are designated by the Ohio Department of Education as “challenged” based on state report card data.

Eight of those are in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

“Challenged” designations open the door for new community schools to open within the district boundaries and take per-pupil dollars away from the public school districts.

Districts are considered challenged when they are in the lowest 5 percent of school districts based on the state report card performance index rankings, earned an overall grades of a D or an F on 2019’s state report card, or earned F value-added grades on two of three years reviewed.

Local districts identified as challenged are Warren, Lordstown, Liberty, Mathews and Niles in Trumbull County; and Youngstown, Springfield and Sebring in Mahoning County.

New community or charter schools that open within district boundaries also then may take the district’s students — and about $6,000 per year for each pupil who transfers.

The Ohio School Boards Association points out that since a third of Ohio’s school districts are designated challenged, the system must be flawed.

While we believe there must be an objective way to evaluate the successes and failures of public schools that are educating our children, we don’t believe that financially penalizing these struggling districts is the correct answer.

There can be no denying that many of the problems facing struggling districts originate in the home. Sadly, poor districts often face challenges of educating students who come to school hungry or with insufficient sleep. Many kids may have working or absent parents who might offer little guidance before and after school. Sometimes older students are responsible for working outside the home after school or caring for younger siblings in the absence of their parents, leaving little time for their studies or homework assignments.

We aren’t sure how further penalizing schools already facing such challenges will solve the districts’ problems.

And let’s not forget that not all children have the desire or the ability to transfer from their home school district to a community or charter school. So what happens to the kids who are left behind to attend their home school district with now even less public funding?

Rather than giving up on struggling schools and further draining their operating fund budgets, state officials should be working to provide new assistance and instructional focus to help these schools improve and to increase school report card scores in areas like reading comprehension, sciences and graduation rates.

The education of every boy and girl is critical, after all. Our future depends on it.

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