Monday, November 28, 2005

Education Empowerment Zones: Revitalizing Ohio's Cities through School Choice

Research shows that parents want to live where they have access to good schools. The declining quality of Ohio’s urban public schools, among other factors, has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of residents in recent decades. Poor school quality may be one of the most important obstacles to revitalizing Ohio’s troubled inner cities.

This study proposes the creation of Education Empowerment Zones (EEZs) in Ohio’s major cities as part of a strategy to re-establish the competitive advantage of the inner city. A combination of Community Schools and an expanded education voucher available to the middle-class, EEZs could lead revitalizing efforts by enticing middle-income families with children back into the inner city.

The study uses Cleveland as a case study to provide a general framework and assess the potential impacts of implementing EEZs. Transforming an Ohio city like Cleveland into an EEZ would improve the prospects for revitalization in several ways. Specifically, the EEZ could:

Create high-quality education opportunities for all Cleveland children.

Add 11,060 children to Cleveland’s private schools.

Improve proficiency test scores in the Cleveland Municipal School District by 21 percent.

Free local tax dollars to increase per pupil spending in conventional public schools.

Result in more kids attending small schools that improve student learning.

Increasing the availability of high-quality education opportunities in Cleveland increases the attractiveness of living in Cleveland. Expanding Cleveland’s voucher program and opening it to all Cleveland residents, in particular, is likely to move nearly 10,000 working-and-middle class families to the city.

Integrate Cleveland economically as the number of working-and-middle-class families living in Cleveland grows.

Stabilize neighborhoods as families can access better schools without moving.

Increase the median income in Cleveland to over $32,000, a 50 percent increase.

Increase housing values as more families build new homes or renovate older housing in the city.

The study also estimates that implementing citywide choice in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Toledo would create a short-term funding gap of $316 million. A review of the Ohio Department of Education’s budget, however, found at least $380 million that could be shifted to funding choice with minimal impact on the quality of existing programs.

Joshua C. Hall is the Director of the Center for Education Excellence at the Buckeye Institute.

Samuel R. Staley is the former President and co-founder of The Buckeye Institute.

Matthew S. Hisrich is a Policy Analyst with The Buckeye Institute.

Aengus L. Barry is an intern with The Buckeye Institute


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