STEUBENVILLE — Zack Space feels there is no place in Ohio for the for-profit online charter school the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, and he spoke to area educators during a roundtable meeting Monday at the Jefferson County Educational Service Center about that and other challenges facing rural schools.
“I am not against all charter schools,” said Space, who is the Democratic candidate for state auditor. “Some of the nonprofit schools are doing amazing things. Clearly there is a place for online learning. I just don’t want to see that abused, especially for profit.”
Space explained that as it stands, charter schools are less accountable since they are not required to meet the requirements that school districts must meet. He told those in attendance that, if elected, he will change that.
“The for-profit online charter school ECOT scammed Ohio taxpayers for more than $1 billion by faking student attendance records while they lined the pockets of politicians who looked the other way,” Space, a resident of Dover, said in a press release.
Space, who grew up in Tuscarawas County, told the attendees that he also is dedicated in making sure that rural schools get an equal voice and equal representation in Columbus.
“The challenges of rural school districts are, if not being totally ignored, are lacking in representation,” he said.
Jim Herring, executive director of the Jefferson Health Plan, agreed.
“When Columbus makes decisions, that’s great.” Herring said. “They are there in the middle of the state, but they don’t know what it’s like over here on the side.”
Space also promised that if elected, he will work to change the current way Ohio schools are funded. Currently it is based on the property tax value in the district. Space said that children growing up in areas without high property values are being discriminated against.
“It’s not fair, and it’s not constitutional,” he said. “It is an utter perversion of democracy and education.”
Jefferson County Joint Vocational School Superintendent Todd Phillipson asked Space about the place of trade and vocational training in his platform. Space spoke about the opportunities being provided by the Utica shale industry.
“It is not coming as fast as we would like, but it is coming,”he said. “We are in place for a perfect storm of industrial renaissance. We have a real opportunity here.”
Space said that part of his plan is to make sure the area is not left behind once the drilling is done.
“We have a legacy of that happening,” he said. “We need to outlive the timespan of the natural resource being removed.”
Space will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot against Republican Keith Faber of Celina and Libertarian Robert C. Coogan of Liberty Township. The winner will replace David Yost as auditor. Yost is running for Ohio attorney general.