August 22, 2014

Elyria
Hazy moonlight
73°F
test

Lorain Schools officials hope realignment will improve academics, attendance, reduce voucher eligibility

LORAIN — The main goal of a proposed Lorain Schools realignment is to improve academics, but it could also increase attendance.

Voucher eligibility for parochial and private schools is tied to each school’s state performance rating.

“Depending on how the realignment works, the school’s overall rating may improve so much that it would no longer be eligible for the voucher program for students who do not currently have a voucher,” John Charlton, Ohio Department of Education spokesman, wrote in a Monday email.

Ohio’s EdChoice program allows voucher eligibility if students attend a school judged “underperforming” by state ratings and if the student’s family is at or below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

For a family of four in 2013, the threshold was $47,100.

Up to 60,000 students use vouchers in Ohio, costing taxpayers $65 million annually, according to the department. Proponents say vouchers provide parents with more choice and force public schools to improve by increasing competition. Opponents say it’s unfair to spend public money on private and religious schools and that vouchers underfund public schools.

This school year, 533 students are using vouchers in Lorain to attend parochial schools, according to the department. The annual cost of vouchers spent in Lorain County is about $3 million.

Superintendent Tom Tucker said the realignment, designed to improve academics by equalizing class sizes and increasing teacher coordination, may be voted on by the Board of Education in April. The plan would eliminate 10 to 12 teaching positions through attrition, which Tucker said would allow the district to bring back art and musical programs eliminated in 2012 due to budget cuts.

Under the realignment, there would be five preschool through second-grade schools and five third- through fifth-grade schools. There would be three sixth- through eighth-grade middle schools.

The district operates 10 elementary schools, which are preschool or kindergarten through sixth grade. There are two seventh- and eighth-grade middle schools, the Lorain High School annex, which houses ninth-graders, and the temporary Lorain High School for 10th- through 12th-graders. A new high school is scheduled to open for the 2016-17 school year.

If approved, the change would be implemented in the 2014-15 school. If ratings improve, vouchers could be reduced in the 2015-16 school year.

Lorain — taken over by a state Academic Distress Commission in April due to four years of low test scores — has about 7,000 students down from 10,000 a decade ago. By improving academics, Lorain hopes to boost attendance. Tucker said if voucher eligibility decreases due to better academics, “that is a huge, huge benefit.”

At nearly $829,000, St. Peter School in Lorain receives the most voucher money in the county. St. Peter spokeswoman Marlene Karpinski said a performance increase by Lorain wouldn’t have a “tremendous” effect on St. Peter enrollment.

Karpinski said St. Peter urges parishioners to vote for Lorain Schools’ levies and hopes the school district’s academics improve.

“We’re all invested in the same thing and that’s the youth of Lorain,” she said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

School vouchers

A total of 563 students are using school vouchers in the Lorain Schools district to attend parochial schools in the 2013-14 school year.

  • Kindergarten: 85
  • First grade: 74
  • Second grade: 66
  • Third grade: 64
  • Fourth grade: 50
  • Fifth grade: 33
  • Sixth grade: 41
  • Seventh grade: 41
  • Eighth grade: 32
  • Ninth grade: 26
  • 10th grade: 18
  • 11th grade: 19
  • 12th grade: 14

SOURCE: Ohio Department of Education

 

  • JoyceEarly

    Thinking Lorain schools will get the voucher money back is a pipe dream. If the money is used by Ohio taxpayes to attend private schools, the money is still being used by taxpayers so the argument that it’s unfair to spend public money on private and religious schools is ridiculous. It only unfunds them when they perform poorly. They need to take ownership of that and change it if they want that money. They act like the money is theirs; it’s not it’s our tax money and we can spend it on a good education if they don’t perform. It is public money being used by taxpayers. It does in fact give families choices when their district is failing and makes the public schools accountable for performance.

    • Brian_Reinhardt

      They may get the money back through a “technicality”.

  • Brian_Reinhardt

    A question that apparently NOT posed to Mr. Tucker or Lorain City Schools is:

    ARE THEY GOING TO APPLY FOR NEW BUILDING IRN’S/INDIVIDUAL RETRIEVAL NUMBERS?

    According to Bev Wallace at the ED Choice Program at the Ohio Department of Education, “many districts are doing a similar realignment” and some have requested new IRN’s for their buildings as the building’s academic designation would change.

    If a district applies for new IRN’s then with each new IRN comes an AUTOMATIC DEFAULT back to UNRATED on each building’s Proficiency Test Scores for 2 years. With that switch comes the automatic ineligibility for students attending those buildings(or slated to attend those buildings) to receive voucher monies for charter or parochial schools.

    Mr Tucker has been very vocal about “bringing students back” to Lorain City Schools.

    This may be one way to force students whose families could not otherwise afford the tuition for charter or parochial schools.

    Why was that question not posed to Mr. Tucker on the record and if it was, then why is such an important piece of information left out of this story?

    • herekitttykaate

      Don’t count on any real answers from any of those misfits. Wonder though, who will be the next double dipper in the schools administration. Perhaps right in front of our nose.

  • golfingirl

    “Tucker said if voucher eligibility decreases due to better academics, “that is a huge, huge benefit.”

    It is a benefit to the Lorain City School system, but only harms the children they profess to want to “help.”

  • oldruss

    The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) ran an article giving its readers both print and on-line at Cleveland.com, a comparison of how poorly the worst school districts in the state performed with the fall OAA Third Grade Reading Assessment. That one was singled out for attention because of Ohio’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee. On the OAA reading assessment, the lowest grade given by the state is “limited”. Lorain City Schools finished with more than fifty (50) percent of its Third Graders scoring as “limited”. LCSD was only slightly behind the truly abysmal fifty-seven (57) percent scored by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). See: http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/03/clevelands_third_grade_reading.html

    Rather than rearranging the schools to which students are assigned, (with the goal by the district to lower the number of vouchers the state provides to students so they can escape the morass of the LCSD), the district should, for all intents and purposes, be dismantled. Give students and their parents the greatest opportunities possible to attend charter schools or private schools. That fifty percent plus of “limited” readers in Third Grade can only translate to poor readers in every other grade too.

    Every measure used to assess how well the LCSD is performing results in lower than average results, at best, and like this fall OAA reading test, leaves the LCSD near the bottom. It’s past time to scrap the whole mess and go in an entirely new direction.