A bridge too far

If you're a school administrator, wondering what your next budget is going to look like, waiting for the release of a new school funding formula, our advice is "don't hold your breath".

Ohio had a school funding formula. Strangley, it still has a website dedicated to it

After 20 years of controversy over its school funding system, Ohio now has a new method for providing funding to its public schools. Enacted as part of the 2010-2011 state budget, the Ohio Evidence-Based Model is designed to fund strategies that have the best chance to help students learn.

While economic realities require that the new approach be phased in over 10 years, the principles underlying the evidence-based model are now in place.

What's more, the new funding model is tied to education reforms designed to build a 21st-century system of education for Ohio.

Unlike the current Attorney General, Mike DeWine, who is winning plaudits for continuing and building upon much of the work of the previous administration, the Governor decided that everything the previous administration had done must go. Whether it worked or not. The Evidenced based model, which brought together hundreds of stakeholders and took years to develop was immediately scrapped. Replaced with a make-it-up-as-we-go-along "bridging formula". It is increasingly likely that a continuing "bridging formula" is on the horizon

But nearly a year later, Kasich, like governors before him, has found that overhauling the way Ohio funds education is not simple math.

The Republican administration concluded a series of public meetings on the issue in September but has yet to release a draft proposal promised for October. And now the governor’s office appears certain to miss a self-imposed deadline of January for unveiling its method of paying for Ohio schools.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the administration is working on its plan, and he doesn’t know when it will be ready.

We asked the Governor's education Czar, Bob Sommers, if he could provide some timetable guidance.

@RDSommers can you give us some guide as to when we might see a funding formula? Is it close, not close? Thanks!
@jointhefutureOH wish I could, but the issues are complex. We continue to study the possibilities. Ideas welcome

We suggested they look at successful models elsewhere in the country, but apparently they don't think there are any. We'd also suggest that they were a little trigger happy in shooting down the Evidence Based Model, and perhaps they could perform some CPR and bring it back with their own modifications.

Either way, the administration has clearly learned that this is no simple task with obvious answers.

Their difficulties will certainly have been further complicated by severe funding cuts as a result of HB153 raiding school budgets, and alienating most school districts and communities with bills like SB5 and HB136. It's hard to collaborate with hundreds of stakeholders when the previous 12 months have been spent attacking them and their mission.

If the administration have learned this lesson we should expect to see more outreach and consultation, and eventually arrive at a funding formula that works for most. Otherwise the administration is going to find itself having traveled a bridge too far.

Final note. We'd like to thank Bob Sommers for engaging in our questions with honest and forthright answers. While we sometimes disagree on fundamental policies, being able to have open and honest policy dialogue is our number one goal, his efforts in this repect advance that.