Cincinnati Charter School Faces Another New Development in Sponsor Saga



As the summer days tick away and another school year draws closer, a Cincinnati-area charter school isn't sure what the future may hold.

Like all charter schools, VLT Academy is a taxpayer funded public school. But over the past few months, it has encountered a journey not typically faced by most charter schools.

First, the school lost its sponsor, which is necessary for a charter school to remain open. Then, the Ohio Department of Education was ordered to become its new sponsor, and after a Monday announcement, the ODE won't have to assume that role--for now.

Got all that?

For some additional context, here's some background information on the school, according to their state report card:

  • the K-12 enrollment hovered around 800 students
  • Almost all (99.7 percent) students are classified as economically disadvantaged
  • Ninety-seven percent of students are African-American
  • Forty percent of third graders read at a limited reading level, while 32 percent tested at a limited math level

Now, let's break down a few of the major event from the last few months, as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer's Jessica Brown:

May 20: VLT's sponsor, Education Resource Consultants of Ohio, decided not to continue their sponsorship of the school. School Superintendent Valerie Lee told Brown that VLT had tried to find other sponsors before ERCO's partnership ended on June 30, but didn't have much luck, saying she believed a lack of sponsors willing to step stepping up to the plate could be a political move.

July 15: VLT also asked the Ohio Department of Education to be their new sponsor. The department declined. The school then appealed the ODE's decision, and a Hamilton County judge said the department would now have to sponsor the school. The ruling also included that the ODE would have to give the school nearly $300,000 to keep the school running.

July 21: In an email, the Ohio Department of Education announced the court has now bestowed a "stay" decision, meaning the department won't have to sponsor the school or fork over any cash. This means the original ruling is now put on pause.

“In addition to the boys and girls of Ohio, we also have an obligation to taxpayers to be good stewards of their tax dollars," ODE's Superintendent Richard Ross said in the email. "It would not have been a good idea to provide state funding to this failing community school.”

But, as Brown reports, a representative from VLT doesn't think it's the end of the road quite yet:

 "...VLT's attorney, Cornelius "Carl" Lewis isn't so sure. He's asking the appeals court for clarification. He believes the appeals court is simply extending the three-day deadline for the ODE to draw up a sponsorship contract with the school, not trying to shut the school down.

"I filed a motion for clarification," he said. "No one can be paid until (the money) is deposited. I don't think the appeals court wants to put people out of work."

Brown also said the "is-it-open-or-not" decision means parents don't know if VLT Academy will be ready to roll for the 2014-15 school year.

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