Education Commission Approves Proposal In Unanimous Vote

The commission also wants to create a district "innovation fund" with $50 million in public and private funding.(Photo: Flickr)
The commission also wants to create a district "innovation fund" with $50 million in public and private funding.(Photo: Flickr)

In a unanimous vote, the Columbus Education Commission approved the proposal it said could put Columbus City Schools on the track for success.

The bulk of the final meeting was fine tuning the proposals and its language. The proposals vary from giving school governance to auditing.

One of the major recommendations is the formation of a public-private panel which would oversee the Innovation Fund. It’s suggested that fund raise up to $50 million a year through 2025 in public and private money for school improvements, which could include funds for high-performing charter schools.

How much transparency the Innovation Fund would have was up for debate. Commission director Eric Fingerhut has said the fund will be transparent.

While commission member Herb Asher, OSU professor emeritus, said he stands behind Fingerhut’s statement. But Asher questioned whether there would be skeptics, as well as whether there the group should introduce stronger language in the proposal to underscore the fund’s transparency.

“But I think some people could say Fingerhut won’t be running this. So how do we address that?”

Commission member Mary Jo Hudson noted the “Innovation Fund” should be formed in a way that would not cause the public suspicion.

“I think if you’ve got some windows to the world that alleviates concerns,” Hudson said. “But there’s also room for some areas where a little bit of additional innovation and you’ve got private money involved, let that work as a 501 (c)(3).”

Commission co-chair Judge Algenon Marbley said he expects the public will demand to know how the funds are spent.

“I don’t think that we can be in a position not to be transparent on how we expend the funds,” Marbley said.

Also to note, the recommendations do not include mayoral control or an appointed school board, moves which were considered.

Commission member Tanny Crane said Mayor Michael Coleman made it clear to the group he did not want to take control of the district.

“But what he has committed is his leadership, his commitment, accountability, and that we will have a delegate of his that will be involved on a daily basis,” Crane said.

That delegate will be in an education director in the mayor’s cabinet and will sit on the Columbus School Board, although he or she will not vote.

The commission also recommends getting rid of the district’s current Internal Auditor Office to make way for an independent auditor who would work at city hall and advise the school board, particularly about levies.

Among other issues the commission also sought to address was how much autonomy Columbus City School principals have. In an earlier meeting, the group heard from Reynoldsburg City Schools which said its principals were given more control of their schools and it improved the district.

This proposal does recommend giving principals more power, especially as it is related to hiring and recruiting teachers. But Tanny Crane suggested the recommendations did not address removing poor-performing teachers.

“One of the challenges principals currently have is when they’re to become a high performing school, they can bring in great teachers, but they can’t fire teachers. And it’s over a period of years that children suffer,” Crane said.

But commission member Carol Perkins, Columbus Board of Education president, reminded the group there are compliance issues.

“There could be legal implications if not done properly.”

Commission director Fingerhut noted, “effective superintendents have learned how to not let compliance be a barrier to school level authority.”

While the meeting covered a plethora of topics, both Perkins and commissioner Stephanie Hightower, CEO of Columbus Urban League, noted the proposals offered little direction for the district’s parents, a key component, educators say, to a child’s academic success.

“I really am not hearing that through all of these, and I don’t mean to go on a tangent, but that is what’s missing to me in all of this stuff,” Hightower said.

The multiple amendments are expected to be added to the final recommendations over the weekend. The final version is set to be delivered to City Hall on Tuesday.

Comments