The News Outlet
Editor's note: Updated to include David Worhatch’s position on charter schools.
Following are the responses from area state lawmakers and candidates for the first Columbus Exchange: Politics in Question, a joint effort of the Akron Beacon Journal and the News Outlet, a consortium of state university journalism programs and media in Northeast Ohio. The results are being shared with all Ohio media outlets.
The question: What are your thoughts on whether charter school assets can become the property of for-profit private businesses or should they remain in public hands, as do traditional public school assets?
A similar question currently is before the Ohio Supreme Court in Hope Academy Broadway Campus et al. v. White Hat Management, LLC, et al., case number 2013-2050.
Detailed maps down to the street level can be found for the Senate and House at respective web sites: http://www.ohiosenate.gov/members/senate-district-map and http://www.ohiohouse.gov/members/district-map
Senate District 18
(All of Portage and most of Geauga and Lake counties.)
Not up for election this year.
John Eklund, incumbent Republican: No response.
Senate District 21
(East side of Cleveland and adjacent suburbs)
Sikiru Kafaru: Republican: No response.
Shirley A. Smith, incumbent Democrat, not running for re-election: Declined to respond.
Sandra Williams, Democrat: No response.
Senate District 22
(Medina, Ashland and Richland counties)
Not up for election this year.
Larry Obhof, incumbent Republican: No response.
Senate District 23
(South and west Cleveland, Parma and Brook Park)
Tom Haren, Republican: No response.
Michael Skindell, incumbent Democrat: In Ohio, charter schools, also known as community schools, are publicly funded primary and secondary schools. They operate independent from local school districts. As they are considered “public schools,” tuition is free for the students. Charter schools are funded by deducting a per pupil amount from the state formula funds allocated to the public school district where the child resides. In the past couple decades, more than $7 billion has been extracted from local school districts to fund these so-called “public” charter schools. Despite their public funding, charter schools in Ohio are not held to the same standards as our traditional public schools.
A portion of the money (public funds) extracted from local school districts is used to pay for charter school furniture, equipment, textbooks and buildings. The question asks whether these assets should be public or private assets. As a legislator, it is my position that the public funds paid to a charter school or management company to accomplish the governmental function of educating our children should remain public funds even after the transfer to a private entity performing that function. Upon closure of any charter school, these assets should be returned to the state through the normal liquidation process for public property. A policy that would deem the public funds to be private funds at the moment they come into possession of a charter school or management company threatens the public accountability of the use of those funds. I support a policy that promotes that the public funds, which have been extracted from our local school districts, remain public even after they come into the possession of a charter school or management company. This policy promotes public scrutiny and accountability.
Senate District 24
(All distant Cleveland suburbs on the inside edge of Cuyahoga County)
Not up for election this year.
Tom Patton, incumbent Republican: No response.
Senate District 25
(Cleveland’s east suburbs, Bedford to Willoughby)
Hasani A. Crider, Republican: No response.
Kenny Yuko, Democrat: This is not an easy question to answer. I cannot say yes or no. We continue to take valuable dollars from public schools … [and] we don’t hold charter schools accountable. I would like them [the assets] to stay with public schools, provided we hold them to the same standards as public schools. Again, education is the top priority.
Senate District 27
(Wayne, north and west Summit and west Stark)
Frank LaRose, incumbent Republican: No response
George Rusiska, Democrat: No response.
Senate District 29
(All but far-west townships and villages of Stark County)
Scott Oelslager, incumbent Republican: Assets should remain public.
Connie Ruben, Democrat: The assets should remain in public hands. This is an issue that deserves more accountability. Proposals to have charter schools audit their assets have been rejected, which isn’t right. (Also said legislature should question how charter schools are spending taxpayer money.)
Senate District 28
(All of southeast Summit County from Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton through Akron and Green)
Not up for election this year.
Sen. Tom Sawyer, incumbent Democrat: This question is a matter pending before the Ohio Supreme Court. I am interested in the outcome of this case because I believe any charter school assets purchased with public funds ought to remain in the public domain.
Senate District 32
(Trumbull, Ashtabula and an eastern portion of Geauga counties)
Not up for election.
Capri S. Cafaro, Democrat: I support additional transparency for charter schools, which, though privately run, are considered public schools funded by public money. If public dollars are being spent, we should know how those dollars are being spent. I realize this is an issue that is currently being debated by the Ohio Supreme Court, and I anxiously await their decision on how to draw that line between public and private.
Senate District 33
(Mahoning and Columbiana counties)
Not up for election.
Joe Sciavoni, Democrat: Though privately operated, Ohio charter schools are publicly funded with taxpayer dollars. If public dollars are being spent, we should know how those dollars are being spent. The Supreme Court of Ohio is currently debating this very issue, and it is my hope that they share this same view.
House District 5
Tim Ginter, Republican: No response.
Nick Barborak, Democrat: Money paid for charter schools is by taxpayers, so it should remain with the taxpayers. The termination or end of the contract does not mean that because that contract has ended that the business operating the charter school is entitled to the property belonging to the school based off of tax dollars. If the property is put to a public auction, then the business does have the opportunity to buy that property, but that does not mean the business has a right to ownership.
House District 6
Marlene Anielski, incumbent Republican: No response
Anthony Fossaceca, Democrat: No response.
House District 7
Mike Dovilla, incumbent Republican, no opposition: No response.
House District 8
Mikhail Alterman, Republican: No response
Armond Budish, incumbent Democrat running for different office: No response.
Kent Smith, Democrat: I would like to end for-profit charter schools. That could end many of these issues.
Jocelyn Conwell, independent: No response.
House District 9
Barbara Boyd, incumbent Democrat not running for re-election: No response.
Janine Boyd, Democrat: No response.
Charles Hopson, Republican: Assets should go to the city.
House District 10
Bill Patmon, incumbent Democrat: Assets should be given or transferred to a new or existing charter school first instead of being auctioned off for profits going to unrelated entities.
Miesha Strickland, independent: If the buildings in which the Charter School resides is a public owned facility then the investor should purchase the building as private owners and cover the cost of teacher salaries, maintenance, and all other expenses.
Robert M. Kilo, independent: Publicly held assets should remain in the facilities inhabited by the schools, and we should fight hard to keep it that way so that they remain the highest quality.
Danielle Shepherd, independent: No contact information found.
Sandra Williams, incumbent Democrat not running for re-election: No response.
Stephanie Howse, unchallenged Democrat: No response.
House District 12
John E. Barnes Jr., incumbent Democrat, no opposition: No response.
House District 13
Marla Anderson, Republican: No response.
Nickie J. Antonio, incumbent Democrat: Charter schools and assets should not be for-profit businesses. This is a huge problem and diverts quality and resources from our public schools.
House District 14
Mike Foley, incumbent Democrat not running for re-election: No response.
Anna E. Melendez, Republican: No response.
Martin J. Sweeney, Democrat: No response.
House District 15
Patty Gascoyne-Telischak, Republican: No response.
Nicholas J. Celebrezze, incumbent Democrat: No response.
House District 16
Nan A. Baker, incumbent Republican: No response.
Todd LeVeck, Democratic candidate for District 16: Assets should remain public.
House District 34
Cynthia D. Blake, Republican candidate: Assets should stay in the public’s hands unless they are included within the sale price (to a private company). If they are, then they would be returned to the general funds of the school district from which they are purchased. That would be a normal business process for any private business and the schools and all government should operate in the same manner.
Vernon Sykes, incumbent Democrat not running for re-election: No response.
Emelia Sykes, Democrat: No response.
House District 35
Linda Robinson, Republican: No response.
Zach Milkovich, incumbent Democrat not running for re-election: No response.
Greta Johnson, Democrat: No response.
House District 36
Anthony DeVitis, incumbent Republican: No response.
Paula Prentice, Democrat: The for-profit charter school assets should be turned over to the public schools. They were purchased with tax dollars, therefore they belong to the tax payer in a public school system with the same accountability structure.
House District 37
Kristina Daley Roegner, incumbent Republican: No response.
David Worhatch, Democrat: If public funds are used to acquire the assets in charter schools, those assets should remain publicly owned. A charter school can have private investment in any number of property or educational aids, and should retain ownership over those resources. However, if any resource is purchased with public funding it should remain the property of the state.
The largest problem facing our state today in this regard, however, is a lack of transparency. At this time we are unable to distinguish the publicly acquired and privately acquired resources because the current legislature has allowed charter-school owners to escape public audit, while also avoiding public access to information and meetings.
I believe that Ohio’s biggest export should not be our brightest young people. Putting people first must begin with putting students first. Education reform in Ohio needs to start with investing in our public schools and universities, including supporting our teachers, and must re-evaluate the current model that unfairly funds failing charter institutions. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly said he did not respond.)
House District 38
Marilyn Slaby, incumbent Republican: At this time, Rep. Slaby has to decline, however, as she does not feel that she would be able to commit the time required to the program.
Tim Crawford, Democrat: No response.
House District 58
Robert F. Hagan, incumbent Democrat not running for re-election: Public money should belong to public schools, plain and simple. Ohio’s charter schools receive nearly $1 billion in public dollars annually. This is hard-earned taxpayer money that is meant to help provide an education for Ohio’s children, not line the pockets of private charter management companies. If a charter school board fires a management company for poorly operating a school, the company should not be able to hold onto property and use it to open yet another failing charter school. These private, for-profit charter companies need to be held accountable.
Michele Lepore-Hagan, unopposed Democrat: These are taxpayers’ dollars that should go back to the taxpayers. I believe that we should put our money into educating our children instead of allowing this money to go to for-profit companies.
House District 59
Paul Mitchell, Republican candidate for District 59 house seat: Yes. We shouldn’t be fooling ourselves to think that charter schools are public schools. They’re fundamentally different and ought to be treated as such. There ought to be a conversation about charter reform, but there are more fundamental issues to address about charters than this one.
Ronald V. Gerberry, incumbent Democrat: No response.
House District 63
Devon A. Stanley, Republican: No response.
Sean J. O’Brien, incumbent Democrat: This issue is tricky, as public schools, by definition, are within the purview of the public sector, while within charter schools there is a large gray area in terms of whether they are public or private. Evidence of this can be seen in the recent Ohio Supreme Court case involving White Hat Management and several northeastern Ohio charter schools. That said, I’m confident that Ohio’s Supreme Court Justices will come to a conclusion that is in the best interest of all Ohioans regarding the “public”/“private” labeling of charter schools, and will wait to hear how they interpret state law before making a final decision on this matter, personally.
House District 64
Randy Law, Republican: No response.
Tom Letson, incumbent Democrat not running for re-election: No response.
Michael O’Brien, Democrat: No response.
Elaine Mastromatteo, Green: No response.
House District 69
House Speaker William G. Batchelder, incumbent Republican not running for re-election: No response.
Steve Hambley, Republican: No response.
Richard A. Javorek, Democrat: School assets belong to the community that pays for them. For profit management firms are pirates that divert revenue for their own uses and stockholders.
Gregg E. Depew, independent: No response.
House District 70
Dave Hall, incumbent Republican: No response.
James Riley, Democrat: I don’t agree with charter schools at all. I think it diverts money from our public schools. I support public schools, I don’t support charter schools.
House District 75
Kathleen Clyde, incumbent Democrat: No response.
Nick Skeriotis, Republican: No response.
House District 76
Matt Lynch, incumbent Republican not running for re-election: No response.
Sarah LaTourette, Republican: No response.
Joseph Lanese, Democrat: No response.