The Department of education recently announced that they had received 570 Straight A Fund applications totaling $868 million from 420 organizations, although only $100 million in grants is available this year. This should come as little surprise to anyone who has followed the Kasich administrations policies towards K-12 school funding.
His first budget slashed an astronomical $3.1 billion from local school districts, his subsequent budget left schools with a $500 million deficit compared to 2009 spending levels.
As large as these cuts have been, they don't paint the entire picture. Simultaneously to these cuts has been the imposition of large unfunded mandates.
Implementation and operation of the 3rd grade reading guarantee could cost upwards of $500 million. The Rube Goldberg Ohio Teacher Evaluation system (OTES) places a massive demand upon school resources to implement. There has been a large expansion in private school vouchers, and charter schools that directly result in almost $1 billion in transfersfrom local school district budgets to the profiteers, mostly at the expense of quality.
Perhaps the most immediate drain however is the technology requirements to implement the PARCC assessments, where every student will be taking their tests online. Before schools begin to pay $29.50 to PARCC per test, many will need to procure, install and configure hundred of computers and backend infrastructure. This, we expect, is a significant number of the Straight A Fund applications.
All told then, it is not difficult to understand why the Straight A Fund is so massively over subscribed, and why Ohio's schools are in so much financial stress.
The Governor and his legislative allies must begin to recognize the problems they have created and immediately address them. They must start by using the $400 million in medicaid savings not for more unnecessary tax cuts, but to begin to adequately fund our schools.