The Governor is set to announce his biennial budget on Monday, February 2nd. Based on conversations, reports, and needs, we expect a lot of K-12 policy to be included in it. Here's a run down of what we expect to see.
We expect to see the elimination of a wide range of testing requirements. Without doubt the increase in testing requirements throughout public education has caused widespread backlash. Students have come under increasing stress, many to the point of illness, and teachers have lost vast amounts of instructional time to testing and test prep.
We reported on ODE's recommendations for testing reduction, and we expect to see many, if not all of those recommendations in the budget. We would not be surprised to see the legislature go even further
Lawmakers heard State schools Superintendent Richard A. Ross’ recommendations on cutting the time students spend taking standardized tests and said they will look to expand on them.
“It’s a good set of recommendations,” Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Centerville and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said, “I think that we may be adding on to some of the recommendations. I see us expanding them as opposed to throwing any of them away. I think the ones that are out there are solid.”
Reducing the amount of testing is likely going to cause all manner of knock on effects, especially for teacher evaluations, where much of the increased testing has come from. The alternatives being discussed, while substantially better for students, might continue to be unfair for educators. The legislature should stay away from using shared attribution - i.e. using a group rating for an individual teacher. Teachers should be evaluated on their own performance.
2Charter School Reforms
You can't open a newspaper, or click an education news story link without hearing about the failure and fraud in Ohio's education sector. It is so out of control that even the GOP legislature and the Governor are expected to act. How far they go will be a real test. Since the inception of charter schools over 15 years ago, the for-profit operators have been shoveling money to Republican politicians to inoculate themselves against such times as they face now.
The Governor and law makers have a good set of suggested reforms to work from, including ideas from Fordham foundation and legislation introduced by Democrats in the previous General Assembly. The noises coming from the Republican controlled house are not encouraging though
The first crack at reforms was made yesterday by a pair of Cleveland-area representatives who introduced a bill that would prevent sponsors from selling services to the schools they sponsor, eliminate “sponsor-hopping” by poor-performing schools seeking to re-open, and require contracts with management companies to detail ownership of books, furniture and other assets.
House Bill 2, by Reps. Mike Dovilla, R-Berea, and Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, seeks to eliminate conflict-of-interest problems by requiring a school treasurer to be independent of the management company or sponsor. It also would prohibit school employees or vendors from serving on school boards and require board members to disclose any family members doing business with the school.
The bill also would require the Ohio Department of Education, starting in July 2016, to publish an annual performance report of charter school operators.
“This is not a witch hunt on charter schools,” said Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville. “ This is something we need to do to make it a little more fair and balanced and make sure there is more transparency and accountability.”
Not exactly strong stuff, and misses addressing dozens of other real performance and accountability problems charter schools have presented. Public pressure during the budget process will be crucial in getting some meaningful reforms - otherwise we will just be kicking the can down the road for another 10 years - and that's just too much lost opportunity for students.
With the improved economy we would not expect to see further cuts to K-12 funding as we have seen in the previous 2 budgets. Indeed we'd like to see some catch-up dollars in this budget. However, the Governor has been promising more income tax cuts for Ohio's wealthiest, so any increases in K-12 foundation funding will be modest at best. This is simply a case of bad priorities.
A likely source of increased funding will come through the continuation of the Straight A Fund - the mini- race to the top grant program the Governor introduced in the last budget. That budget allocated $250 million in total, spread across two funding rounds. We expect more of that.
How schools are going to be funded is still a big question. We've been operating without a funding formula since the Governor ditch his predecessors evidence based model. These things are very hard to create, and we've heard of very little consultation with anyone happening. We suspect whatever the Governor introduced (and his last attempt was a disaster his own party discarded) will be vastly changed during the budgeting process. A lot of words to say we just don't know.
What we do know is that it would be very hard to send even more money to the voucher programs - with 60,000 available, barely 20,000 are being used. Thoughts of sending more money to charter schools should also be off the table this go around given all the negative attention charters have received for bilking tax payers.
We don't anticipate any changes to be introduced by the Governor regarding Common Core. He's a strong supporter, even going so far as to call other Republicans who oppose the standards, liars. That doesn't mean there are forces in his own party that might look at the budget process as a vehicle to attack common core. We doubt those efforts will succeed, but it should be interesting to watch.
Those are the big items we expect to see addressed. There will undoubtedly be other policies pieces introduced too. We'll be reporting in depth during the whole process - stay tuned.