Kasich manufacturing a funding crisis

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Ohio Lottery recently announced that

it was transferring a record $771 million to the Ohio Department of Education to support kindergarten-through-12th grade education. The profit — which by law goes to schools — came from record lottery sales of $2.73 billion in the fiscal year ending June 30.

That sounds like great news for cash strapped school districts that have suffered from historically massive budget cuts enacted by the Governor and his legislature in the last biennium budget.

However, the good news is only surface deep. For every dollar of lottery money that flows into the schools, the state removes a dollar of funding. Something school administrators recently wrote the Governor about

The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) want to set the record straight about lottery profits and their link to school funding.
“While it is true that all Ohio Lottery profits are used by the state to fund education, the profit from increased sales was simply used to free up other state funds that had previously been set aside for schools, allowing more money to be transferred into the stateʼs rainy day fund,” said OSBA Executive Director Richard Lewis. “No increase in this yearʼs funding for school districts will be available as a result of these unexpected profits.”

BASA Executive Director Kirk Hamilton said, “The increase in lottery profits was positive news for the state of Ohio because of its recent devastating budget shortfall. However, we were disappointed to see reports implying that it is school districts that will benefit. In reality, when lottery profits exceed estimates, the total amount available for Ohio schools does not change.”

“We urge Gov. Kasich to use this ʻextraʼ state money from the increased lottery profits to restore the budget cuts to education that were included in the current state budget,” said OASBO Executive Director David Varda. “It should also be utilized to help fund schools in the future as Gov. Kasich develops a new school-funding formula.

So all that extra lottery money didn't go to schools at all, instead it went into the Governor's rainy day fund. This move is made all the more troubling when one considers the news out of Cleveland this week.

The Mayor and Cleveland schools will be requesting an massive 15 mils in their levy

The Cleveland School District and Mayor Frank Jackson will ask voters this fall to raise their school taxes by about 50 percent to make major changes aimed at pulling the district out of its academic and budget hole.

The 15-mill levy -- the first operating increase for the district since 1996 -- would give the district an estimated $77 million more a year to add to its $670 million operating budget and $1.1 billion total budget.

We have long pointed out that the real crisis with Cleveland schools was its funding.

As buzz about the tax spread Wednesday, some jaws dropped at the amount. "I hope they dispense Depends when they announce it," said Cleveland City Councilman Mike Polensek, "so that when homeowners crap their pants it doesn't get too messy."

A little graphic, but it captures the problem. A problem the MAyor never sought to address with the legislature when crafting his "Cleveland Plan" - that plan now looks downright ridiculous given this levy news. Stephen Dyer, at 10th period is sanguine about it

It looks like there is little hope that the much ballyhooed Cleveland Plan will ever reach its promise of turning around Cleveland's public school system. Cleveland's teachers made major concessions to the district, including giving up seniority as a means of determining pay. All so that kids might be able to be helped by the necessary, but expensive, wrap around services the Plan promised.

Now that it looks like it will take a miracle to see any of that. And Cleveland teachers' good-faith efforts and sacrifices are all that will ever come from this Plan, whose legacy appears to be resigned to shorter school days, reduced offerings and larger classes.

I lay little of the blame for this issue at Cleveland's feet. This is a state problem, as it has been for decades. When the state cuts school funding, which it did in the last budget by $1.8 billion (nearly $3 billion if all stimulus money's included), districts are forced to make impossible, desperate choices.

When will the public schools rise again and force the state to fulfill its constitutional obligations? Maybe if the levy fails, media and others will finally take note of the State's failure. But why should it.

Indeed, the Mayor should have asked the Governor for funding as part of his plan, and the Governor given record lottery profits that are supposed to benefit the schools, ought to be ensuring that all that excess profit actually does go to the schools. Students and communities are being massively short changed.

We have a school funding crisis in Ohio, and there is literally no need for it to be happening. The state has both the constitutional responsibility, and the means to address it, it is simply refusing to do so.