Budget Update #4 - The Governors Robin Hood Budget Revealed!

The Governor released his long anticipated budget on January 30th. As expected it included more income tax cuts, with increases to sales taxes to pay for it. It also included increases in tax on alcohol, smoking and a range of services. The next result of this tax plan will be the continued reduction in taxes for wealthier Ohioans, while the rest of us pay more.

On the K-12 front, the news is decidedly mixed. According to budget documents:

Primary and Secondary Education recommended all funds appropriations total $11.2 billion (1.2% above FY 2017 spending levels) and $11.4 billion in FY 2019 (1.4% above FY 2018). Recommended GRF appropriations total $8.1 billion in FY 2018 and $8.2 billion in FY 2019. 

As we noted in our budget update #3, this means a cut in real terms due to inflation being around 2.1 percent. The budget also includes an erosion to the guarantee, with Districts that have lost students facing cuts. According to the Dispatch 1 in 2 districts might see these cuts

Under the plan, a district's funds would be cut by an amount equal to its population loss over 5 percent. So if enrollment dropped 6.5 percent over five years, it would lose 1.5 percent in 2018 and then get the same amount in 2019. Cuts would be capped at 5 percent.

It's not yet clear exactly how enrollment is calculated - specific district numbers are not ready yet - but based on state data, 351 of Ohio's 610 districts lost more than 5 percent of their students from 2011-16.

Budget Update #3 - Kasich Promises Tough Fiscal Conditions For Schools

Gov. John Kasich said yesterday that school funding will see an annual 1% state funding increase in the administration's biennial budget. Given that the current rate of inflation is 2.1 percent, this will amount to a cut in funding in real terms. 

"We don't have any more money...but we have had a consistent increase in education over the last six years and we're going to have a second biennium and what we call a mid-biennium review and, if we get more revenue, then education will obviously be one of our priorities," he told reporters during a Statehouse event.

The governor told the school leaders he wished he could give them money to recognize their accomplishments, but joked that they'd have to settle for plaques while the budget is tight.

These are funding choices that the Governor and his legislature have made. They chose to cut taxes, leading to school tough fiscal conditions for schools. They could easily choose to do otherwise.

We want to raise standards and hold teachers accountable, when the legislature and Governor are lowering funding standards and not being held accountable for it. Something is broken.

Budget Update #2 - Pack School Boards With Non-elected "Business" People?

Cleveland.com dropped this nugget from by the Governor, in anticipation of what might be included in his budget

Business leaders on school boards.

Kasich said Thursday the budget will require each school board superintendent to appoint three nonvoting, ex-officio school board members from the business community.

The governor's workforce transformation board suggested the proposal to help educators learn more about work opportunities for their students and for businesses to share their workforce needs.

"Our K-12 education system in this country is virtually impossible to reform," Kasich said. "Can we fix it? No question about it, but who fixes it? Can I fix it from the top down? Or can you fix it by having your school board take action?"

How does adding 3 more people who know nothing about public education and pedagogy help students become life long learners? It's not like there's a Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates in each of the 611 school districts throughout the state. It's not like either Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg have had a positive impact where they have been involved! Does the local plumber, or pizza shop owner have any greater insight?

Here's how one School Board President reacted to the news

Our local School Board consists of one retired public administrator, one retired teacher, one retired BUSINESS person, and two active BUSINESSMEN, elected by the local voters of our local school district. It seems this community already has this non-issue covered. 

In lieu of three more business folks, I'd like to see just ONE OHIO GOVERNOR who funded public education so as to abide by our State Constitution; and having secured adequate funding for each district, ONE OHIO GOVERNOR who did not usurp local control over such diverse items as curriculum and staff evaluations; ONE OHIO GOVERNOR who did not balance his budget on the backs of local governments; ONE OHIO GOVERNOR who did not spend almost a full year running for higher office rather than working to stop the misuse of Ohio public school tax dollars by FOR PROFIT (NON-) EDUCATIONAL COMPANIES; ONE OHIO GOVERNOR who thought that the children of our quality school district are of equal monetary investment as, oh let's say, the same "student" enrolled in ECOT; and ONE OHIO GOVERNOR who did not hold out the false hope to Ohio children and their parents that charter schools in Ohio have to meet the same standards as public schools, the real "Community Schools". 

This OHIO GOVERNOR is trying to kill public education, a major component of a free and democratic society. This does not bode well for the future of Ohio or Ohio children.

Bruce Sucher

Vandalia, Ohio

DeVos Confirmation Hearing Confirms She is Unqualified (5 Videos)

If you read our earlier piece, Act Now to Oppose An Unqualified Public School Privatizer, you would be well informed about how unqualified Betsy DeVos is to lead the US department of Education. If you watched her confirmation hearing performance yesterday, you would realize we didn't go far enough.

Seldom have we ever seen someone so lacking in basic knowledge be put forward as an education leader. There are better qualified candidates on school boards in Ohio.

For those who didn't follow the hearings, let us document the myriad of examples of Betsy DeVos demonstrating her complete lack of understanding and knowledge of the department she is wishing to lead.

Example 1: Asked by Sen. Murphy if guns have any business in schools

Pressed on whether she could say "definitively" if guns shouldn't be in schools, she referred to an earlier remark by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) who mentioned an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming, that had erected a fence to protect children from wildlife.

"I think probably there, I would imagine that there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies," DeVos said.

Example 2: DeVos did not Know what (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was

Example 3: Unable to state is all schools should meet the same accountability standards (this one gets awkward), and what IDEA means

Kaine: “If confirmed will you insist upon equal accountability in any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter or private?”

DeVos: “I support accountability.”

Kaine: “Equal accountability?”

DeVos: “I support accountability.”

Kaine: “Is that a yes or a no?”

DeVos: “I support accountability.”

Kaine: “Do you not want to answer my question?”

DeVos: “I support accountability.”

Kaine: “Let me ask you this. I think all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be equally accountable. Do you agree?”

DeVos: “Well they don’t, they are not today.”

Kaine: “Well, I think they should. Do you agree with me?

DeVos: “Well no . . . ”

And once again failed to understand the importance of IDEA

Kaine asked her if she believes that all schools that receive federal funding — whether public, public charter or private — should be required to meet the requirements of IDEA.

She responded: “I think they already are.”

Kaine: “But I’m asking you a should question. Whether they are or not, we’ll get into that later.” He then repeated his question.

DeVos said: “I think that is a matter that is best left to the states.”

Kaine responded: “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good and, what then, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how kids are being treated?”

Devos repeated: “I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states.”

Example 4: DeVos did not understand the difference between Growth and proficiency

Understanding the difference between these 2 simple concepts is a prerequisite. Not knowing this is dangerously ignorant.

Example 5: Finally we get to the real reason DeVos was sitting in that chair, and about to be the least qualified Secretary of Education in the nations history.

Sanders: “Mrs. DeVos, there is a growing fear, I think, in this country that we are moving toward what some would call an oligarchic form of society, where a small number of very, very wealthy billionaires control, to a significant degree, our economic and political life. Would you be so kind as to tell us how much your family has contributed to the Republican Party over the years?”

DeVos: “Senator, first of all thank you for that question. I again was pleased to meet you in your office last week. I wish I could give you that number. I don’t know.”

Sanders: “I have heard the number was $200 million. Does that sound in the ballpark?”

DeVos: “Collectively? Between my entire family?”

Sanders: “Yeah, over the years.”

DeVos: “That’s possible.”

Sanders: “Okay. My question is, and I don’t mean to be rude. Do you think, if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?”

DeVos: “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility. I’ve worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years to be a voice for students and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, primarily low-income children.”

After listening to her testimony, it's pretty clear there is zero possibility she would be a nominee for this position without her political financial ties, and to go one step further, she has admitted this herself in the past

“My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” she wrote in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “I have decided to stop taking offense,” she wrote, “at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”

Ohio Graduation Crisis Countdown

Ohio has changed High School graduation requirements, which has many concerned that massive numbers of students will fail to graduate. Concern is so great that Ohio superintendents protested at the Statehouse late last year.

As one educator noted

The reality in Ohio is that we are preparing to refuse a diploma to 30% of our students statewide. In urban areas like the one in which I teach, the rate of non-graduates will be far higher, 40-70% depending on the city. We are punishing students to solve nonexistent problems, with an unproven assessment system that cannot measure the soft skills students need to be successful in college and on the job.

We've been told that the 3 paths to graduation will solve the graduation problem, but the viability of the multiple paths is a myth. The WorkKeys path reaches terribly few vocational students, and those who can earn a remediation free score on the ACT are the same students who are on pace to graduate through the state assessment path. Three paths are a misnomer if fewer students graduate.

Now in full blown crisis mode, a taskforce has been formed to figure out how to un-mess the mess. They don't have much time. The first meeting, according to an ODE press release is scheduled for January 18th.

Graduation Requirements Workgroup to Meet January 18
The Superintendent of Public Instruction will hold a Graduation Requirements Workgroup meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 4:00 p.m. at the Ohio Department of Education, 25 South Front Street, Columbus.

The State Board of Education’s Standards and Graduation Committee discussed Ohio’s graduation requirements during its December meeting. The committee, and ultimately the full board, passed a resolution to direct the Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a work group to review the graduation requirements and consider any alternative approaches as they relate to the class of 2018.

The superintendent will present a recommendation to the Standards and Graduation Committee by the April 2017 board meeting.

We need a lot fewer amateurs involved in public education in Ohio.