Whew! I certainly hope that we are nearing the end of this record setting Winter. I for one am looking forward to Spring even more than usual. Along with my wishes for some warmer weather, I would like to share some items on our school calendar, school choice, school funding and school facilities.
As you know, our district like so many in our region, has had to close school much more often than typical this year. Most years, we are able to add a day or so to the end of our calendar and get all of our required school days in. Because of this Winter’s severity, we are examining some changes to our “normal” school calendar which make some concessions to Mother Nature while making our best effort to maintain quality learning opportunities for our students and meet the requirements established by The State of Ohio. In cooperation with our teaching staff, our Board of Education is examining our options and will announce decisions about an updated calendar once our state legislature finalizes the efforts they are making around this issue. Stay tuned.
I often write in this space about how our school is our community’s school and how the resources required to turn out the next generation of educated citizens come from all of us in our Northwood community. There is no doubt that this community effort is what it takes to provide excellent educational opportunities for the youngsters in our community and I thank you for the support you provide. However, I also want to share some additional information that isn’t often shared in the media regarding school funding and school choice.
While our school is by far the school most Northwood parents choose to send their children to and the one most of our community tax dollars support, families are now able to make many choices about where their children attend school and have all of the state and a substantial portion of local tax dollars follow their student to that chosen school. When we as citizens are asked if we support a parent’s right to choose the best educational option for their child, most of us tend to think that is a good idea. As an advocate for a quality education for all children, I too support school choice, but like most things in life, it isn’t as simple as that. What follows here is the most recent list of schools Northwood students take State of Ohio and Northwood tax dollars to for the costs of their educations as provided by our Treasurer, Angel Adamski:
BCS Local Schools: $2,815.05
BG Montessori: $7,608.00
Eagle Academy: $11,227.88
Eagle Learning Center: $19,712.87
Lake Local Schools: $54,577.50
Ohio Virtual Academy: $47,021.52
Oregon City Schools: $46,500.00
Provost Academy: $4,653.45
Sensational Kids: $17,500.00
Treca Digital Academy: $11,490.00
40 Northwood students are being educated in these schools taking approximately $257,000.00 with them from our district to cover the costs of their education. In Northwood, 1 mill of property tax raises about $115,000.00 so the cost of choice to our district currently is equal to about two and a quarter mills of property tax.
In the school choice environment, where students living in Northwood have many options available to them, our district has also chosen to participate and allow students from other communities to make their choice Northwood Schools. When they make that choice, they bring both state tax dollars as well as some of their home community tax dollars with them to pay for their education in our school. We currently have 161 students from other communities in our school and those students are bringing approximately $803,000.00 with them from their schools to cover the costs of their education. That equates to about 7 mills of property tax coming in to our district from other public school districts.
If we chose not to accept Open Enrollment students,our district would lose approximately $257,000.00 with no way to make that up except to ask our community for a tax levy. By accepting Open Enrollment students our school experiences a net positive of approximately $699,000.00 on the Open Enrollment ledger which equates to about 6 mills of property tax you and I are not paying because our district has chosen to compete for students in the school choice environment created by our state government. As one can clearly see, in this age of school competition, it is most important that our school remain competitive by offering excellent educational opportunities and facilities for students.
While I unwaveringly support all children having the opportunity to have a high quality public education funded by the State of Ohio and our local taxes, I have considerable problems reconciling the following items currently in Ohio law that I regularly address with our state elected officials:
Many schools receiving our tax dollars to provide children’s educations are not required to
have an elected Board of Education to provide public oversight on behalf of the community or state
meet the same academic standards our school does
meet the same regulations our school does
disclose how the tax dollars they receive are spent as our school does
be subject to the same thorough financial auditing our school is
be non-profit as our school is
report the academic progress of their students to their community and our state on same school report cards our school does
accept all eligible students who apply as our school does
My message to our state elected officials continues to be that Northwood Schools are willing to compete with other schools to provide the best opportunities for students, but it is their responsibility as our elected policy makers to ensure that the policies our state has in place allow all schools competing for students do so on a level playing field that has the same requirements for all education providers who receive our tax dollars. Currently that is not the case and I am not sure how long our school will continue holding its own in this era of competition for students if the playing field continues to be tilted against our public school. If current trends continue unabated there is real potential for our most at risk students to be left behind in what is left of a seriously underfunded public school while the public funds we have raised to educate ALL of our kids are funneled away to private enterprises with a profit motive to educate only the students they are willing to accept. I encourage all community members to become engaged on this issue because the way we fund the education of our children has already changed significantly due to school choice and will continue to change moving forward.
Currently, I continue to be pleased to report both as our school superintendent and as a fellow Northwood tax-payer that our school thus far has been able to adapt and is presently on stable financial footing. Our commitment is to continue to do our best to manage costs and only come back for additional operating money when it becomes a necessity.
To address our very real school facility needs, our Board of Education has accepted the opportunity to partner with the State of Ohio and has a levy on the ballot in May to provide our local share for that effort. The need to address our facilities is clear to anyone examining our buildings and must be dealt with in a cost effective manner that assures long term efficiency. Our district plan, which was developed by community members through a great deal of study and analysis over the course of the last year, calls for building a 21st century facility located on the Lemoyne Road campus that will provide updated educational facilities for all of our students. It also provides for the demolition of the Lark, Olney and 1938 NES Buildings as well as the academic wing of Northwood High School. The common areas of NHS including the gym and auditiorium will be saved for school and community use.
Now is the time for our community to embrace this opportunity of a lifetime. We need to address our aging buildings in a way that insures future operational efficiency. Bond rates (borrowing costs) are low and right now the State of Ohio is willing to contribute over eleven and a half million dollars to the project only IF we provide our share locally ---just as other communities have done to address their facility needs. This is our last opportunity to lock in this deal with the State of Ohio. We are not likely to ever see a better opportunity to address these issues.
As you have all heard me say before, we are fortunate to live in a community that continues to demonstrate a serious commitment to excellent educational opportunities for our children. As superintendent of our school district, as the parent of a first grader and as a community member, I continue to be impressed and sincerely appreciate our community commitment to our children and their future. We understand educating our youngsters is an investment in the future prosperity of our city, our state and our nation in addition to simply being the right thing to do. Providing these opportunities for our children is not something that comes without some sacrifice on our part as community members and with that understanding comes our school’s commitment to work to do it well at a price we can afford.
As always, I welcome your questions, comments and suggestions.
Northwood Local Schools
500 Lemoyne Road
Northwood, OH 43619