Summit Coverage


More than 320 Education Leaders Attend Two-day Summit on Community Schools

Education leaders who gathered at a Charter School Summit in Columbus heard from the nation's foremost experts on community schools, discussing how to interpret recent changes in Ohio law that will improve accountability and listening to inspirational speeches from widely respected speakers and charter school graduates.

The two-day conference, hosted by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, provided financial, professional and academic training to those who work in both traditional and non-traditional schools, sponsors or operators of community schools, and those who regulate them. Almost 330 people attended the summit, which concluded Aug. 12.

Geoffrey Canada, the founder of Harlem Children's Zone, Inc., inspired attendees with his engaging keynote presentation, saying every child can be taught to learn regardless of where they live, their socio-economic status, their race or any other factors. There should be no acceptable excuse for failing children, he said, noting that all citizens play a role in making sure our students succeed. Canada stressed that society must create a climate where all students believe it is "normal" to attend college. Why, he asked, should the expectation be vastly different depending on where a child lives?

Yost calls for new reforms

Auditor Yost called on state lawmakers to reform how electronic schools are funded, a request that drew the support of the Senate president as well as a leading charter school organization.

"It's time to resolve the weaknesses (in state law and policy) by first working out what it means to achieve that result of an educated citizen," Auditor Yost said. "I'm calling on the General Assembly to take this matter up when they return this fall … Learning-based funding – course completion – would mean schools get paid when they deliver a piece of education. The unit could be as large as a year's work or as little as an approved unit."

Yost worked with legislative leaders in 2015 to pass charter school reforms, but said then that higher standards for electronic schools are necessary because it is difficult to measure whether students are adequately participating in instruction. He noted in both of his landmark charter school attendance audits that measuring engagement with students who are in a blended school environment or in virtual schools is extremely difficult given state law and policies at the Ohio Department of Education – a reason they were not included in the head count audit.

Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, announced support for Yost's call for reform. "I commend Auditor Yost for his leadership on the accountability and funding of our charter schools. He's absolutely right that we should be paying for outcomes and more specifically, for a quality education," Faber said.

"We expect our schools to successfully educate kids, and that's what they should be paid to do," he said. "We've learned that basing our higher education funding formula on performance and course completion has resulted in improvements to both. The same philosophy should be applied to primary and secondary education as well. I look forward to continuing this discussion not only with the auditor but also with my legislative colleagues in the days ahead."

State superintendent: Charter schools are necessary

During Thursday's summit session, Paolo DeMaria, the state's superintendent of public instruction, said charter schools play an important role in the educational options for our children. DeMaria said those in the charter school community need to hold themselves and each other accountable and lauded the conference for helping to educate leaders and allow for community building.  

Dr. Steve Perry, founder of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School, also said the charter community must be aggressive in pushing its agenda. During his keynote address, Perry said not all public school systems are providing the type of education children deserve and need to succeed in life.

The keynote speeches were among the highlights of the two-day, 24-session summit. The Auditor's office has held fiscal training each year for community schools as well as other local governments. The training was expanded this year because of new standards created in House Bill 2, which was approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. John Kasich in 2015. Yost worked with members of the General Assembly to craft the reforms for charter schools, attended by more than 120,000 Ohio children.