If one had hoped that the budget conference committee would take the Governor, House and Senate education policy plans and blend them into a better product, those hopes were dashed yesterday.
The budget continues to disinvest in Ohio's public education system to the tune of $532.7 million compared to 2010-2011 funding levels. To add further insult to that injury, in order to pass along income tax cuts to Ohio's wealthiest citizens, the GOP controlled legislature is also eliminating the 12.5% property tax rollback. A homeowner would face paying an additional $4.38 per mill for every $100,000 in taxable property value on new levies - making those levies a tougher sell for struggling schools.
In other areas of education policy, the conference committee failed too. The Senate had proposed to reduce the weight of a teachers evaluation using value-added from 50% to 35%. However, the conference committee reversed that policy improvement leaving the absurd over-reliance of value-add in place at 50%. Furthermore, the Senate had proposed eliminating the scores from teachers evaluations of students who were unexcused absent for 30 days or more. This would have been down from the current law of 60 days. The Conference committee reset that to an objectionable 45 days. For reference, Ohio Revised Code states that a student is chronically truant after only 15 days of unexcused absence - so why any teacher should be evaluated based on chronically truant students can only be explained by the legislature wanting to be punitive towards educators.
According to Gongwer
One amendment would shift some funding from the K-3 literacy fund for all schools to economically disadvantaged districts and charter schools, according to House Republican policy aide Colleen Grady. However, the revision would not significantly alter the bottom line on K-12 spending.
So in order to more adequately fund rural school districts the legislature decided not to add more money to the put but to shift money from their own 3rd grade reading guarantee. This isn't education policy, it is madness.
Other notable changes
- Revise the enrollment count for funding traditional school districts by switching to an annualized processed that would be updated three times a year starting in 2015.
- Remove a funding guarantee for charter schools rated "excellent" for three years consecutively.
- Subject private school students to state testing requirements if more than 65% of the population uses state vouchers, while allowing pupils not on scholarships to opt out of the exams.
- Specify that homeschooled children and students moving into Ohio could obtain for EdChoice vouchers if they live in an eligible school district.
- Ensure that students attending a STEM school can participate in extracurricular activities in their resident schools.
- Create an advisory committee to guide distribution of the Straight A grant program funds and advise the governing board.
- Cap Straight A fund awards at $5 million for a single grantee and $15 million for a consortium, while allowing the Controlling Board to approve higher amounts.