Budget conference committee take backward steps

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

Conferees did adopt some last minute tweaks to the school funding that Republicans said would steer some additional money to poorer urban and rural districts.

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.

Education News for 02-14-2013

State Education News

  • CPS responds on 'data scrubbing' (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan on Wednesday downplayed the possibility that the district could lose up to $40 million in state funding…Read more...

  • Kasich education advisers defend school-funding formula (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Gov. John Kasich’s top education advisers told legislators yesterday that they did not attempt to calculate the adequate cost of educating a child…Read more...

  • Budget proposal would fund creative education ideas (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Richard Ross didn’t mince words yesterday about the proposed $300 million “Straight-A” fund for schools, calling it the “single most-important element for change” in Gov. John Kasich’s school-funding formula…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Reynoldsburg, schools to share services of manager (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Reynoldsburg and the city school district will share the services of a human-resources manager…Read more...

  • District to buy 30 new buses for $2.6 million (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • Fairfield City Schools will spend more than $2 million during the next 10 years to purchase 30 new buses to replenish its aging fleet…Read more...

  • East Holmes makes changes in staff, drops German (New Philadelphia Times)
  • The East Holmes Board of Education has voted to realign academic and administrative staff for the 2013-2014 school year to deal with record enrollment at Hiland High and new graduation…Read more...

  • New internal assessments elicit cautious optimism for Toledo Public Schools (Toledo Blade)
  • As Toledo Public Schools found itself mired in public turmoil in recent months, with a search for a new superintendent, a state investigation that criticized attendance reporting practices, and the defeat of another levy…Read more...

  • Elyria City School District to cut 59.5 positions (WEWS)
  • By a unanimous vote the Elyria City School Board approved $3 million in cuts…Read more...

  • Superintendent oversees three districts (WKYC)
  • There is a push in Ohio for schools to share more resources and even people…Read more...

  • Costly lawsuits over school busing problems (WOIO)
  • For eight years now 19 Action News have brought you stories of busing woes in the Nordonia Hills schools…Read more...

Education News for 12-06-2012

State Education News

  • Senate will redo bill on grading districts (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Republican leaders in the Senate say the goal of a new A-to-F report-card system and tougher school-accountability system is to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college…Read more...

  • Educators open to stricter standards (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • If making teachers take a rigorous exam to get their license, similar to the way lawyers take the bar exam in order to practice law…Read more...

  • Educators debate proposed exam (Springfield News-Sun)
  • Ohio educators responded with tempered support to the American Federation of Teachers’ call for a more stringent exam…Read more...

  • Political Fight Threatens To End Funding For Autism Treatment In This Session (WBNS)
  • The state education department spends over $250 million dollars annually in special education costs for children with autism…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Many kids miss school as 'stomach flu' spreads in Ross County (Chillicothe Gazette)
  • Several local schools reported a large number of students out sick Wednesday, one day after health officials said the so-called “stomach flu” appears to be fairly widespread…Read more...

  • Licking Heights school copes without busing (Columbus Dispatch)
  • There were a lot of whistles and hand signals, a few kids wandering through the parking lot yesterday with their cellphones pressed to their ears…Read more...

  • Schools create rainy day fund (Newark Advocate)
  • Granville school officials have established an emergency “contingency” fund that is dependent in part upon how quickly the Granville Inn is sold…Read more...

  • Custodians, groundskeepers laid off at Heights (Newark Advocate)
  • Licking Heights Board of Education last week moved forward with another round of reductions, laying off custodians and reducing the hours of dozens of bus drivers…Read more...

  • Teachers get STEM training (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • Some teachers were a little overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available in the new Defined STEM program…Read more...


  • Short takes (Columbus Dispatch)
  • KIDS OFTEN are involved with activities at school beyond the traditional school day, and often when it’s dark. Combine poor visibility with a lack of sidewalks and well-marked or well-lit crosswalks…Read more...

  • Better busing (Findlay Courier)
  • Earlier this year, Gov. John Kasich's administration introduced "Beyond Boundaries," a program to help school districts, local governments and state agencies deal with less state funding…Read more...

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.

Education News for 07-20-2012

Statewide Stories of the Day

  • Newark appears on track to meet 23 of 26 indicators on Ohio Achievement Assessment (Newark Advocate)
  • NEWARK - Although state report cards likely are a month away, Newark administrators said they are excited about preliminary Ohio Achievement Assessment results. According to preliminary results released by the Ohio Department of Education, Newark students passed more indicators than in 2011, including seventh-grade reading. Although nothing is final until report cards are released, Newark is on track to meet 23 of 26 indicators, said Maura Horgan, director of secondary curriculum instruction. Read more...

  • Youngstown schools: Cost to update curriculum estimated at nearly $500,000 (Vindicator)
  • Youngstown - Getting the school district’s curriculum up to state standards will be an expensive proposition. One of the elements of the Academic Recovery Plan for the district updated by the state-appointed Academic Distress Commission earlier this year calls for up-to-date Ohio standards based pre-kindergarten through 12 plans in literacy, math, science and social studies. Teams of teachers and administrators determined the books, materials and supplies needed to accomplish that and the cost is nearly $500,000 for grades seven through 12. Read more...

Local Issues

  • Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon says building, operating funds come from different accounts (WEWS 5 ABC)
  • CLEVELAND - It's been a monumental week for the Cleveland Municipal School District. Since last Friday, ground has been broken for four new, 21st century elementary schools: Paul L. Dunbar, Miles, Almira, and Orchard. Groundbreakings for the new Max Hayes and John Marshall high schools are coming soon. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the school board voted to seek a new 15 mill levy to finance the new education reform plan and avoid a huge budget deficit next year. Read more...

  • Cleveland school district faces big challenge passing 15-mill tax increase, some councilmen say (Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND — Taxpayers can't quite wrap their heads around the 15-mill school tax the school board proposed Wednesday night, some Cleveland City Council members say, predicting the tax is likely to fail by a large margin. "It's going to go down in utter defeat," said Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed. Councilman Mike Polensek, of Collinwood, said he and his office have received call after call from families shocked at a request that is twice as big as he expected -- an amount that he said families can't afford. Read more...

  • Fostoria board OKs 2013 appropriations (Courier)
  • FOSTORIA - Fostoria school board approved fiscal year 2013 general fund temporary appropriations of more than $21.7 million at Thursday's regular meeting. The meeting was rescheduled from Monday to accommodate board members' schedules. The district finished fiscal year 2012 on June 30 with a carryover balance of $400,939, according to information from Treasurer Jaime Pearson, so the available general fund balance is more than $22.1 million on July 1, which is the beginning of the fiscal year. Read more...

The Casino shell game

Hopes of school districts hitting the proverbial jackpot are set to take a significant hit if analysis conducted by the Cincinnati inquirer prove accurate.

“This is all a big shell game,” said Warren County Administrator David Gully. “We’re not really getting anything. All the new money we’re getting is going to be offset by cuts in the Local Government Fund.”

Gully was referring to state budget cuts through mid-2013 that severely slashed funding to counties and local communities in order to close an $8 billion budget gap.
Tax projections also depend on whether slot machines open at Ohio’s seven racetracks. Local governments can count on a 27 percent reduction in projected tax proceeds if that occurs because “racinos” are expected to dip into casino profits. The low end of The Enquirer’s analysis includes that scenario.

That scenario is now certain, with the Governor signing SB386 which will allow racetracks to offer slot machines. Ohio schools are likely to received just 39% of what was promised in 2009, which wasn't big money to begin with. In 2009 projections were that $327,441,791 would flow from casino to local tax juridistions, but now just $130,452,323 is expected, a massive drop of $196,989,468

School officials are skeptical about how much money they’ll receive and what it will mean to their budgets.

Consultants have told school districts to expect $21 per student for 2012 and up to $80 per student when all casinos are open.

“It’s not big money, although it sounds like a lot to the average Joe,” said Randall Bertram, treasurer at Northwest Local Schools, the second-largest school district in Hamilton County with about 9,000 students.

Northwest, which is laying off 56 people on Aug. 1, including 21 teachers to trim $3 million from the payroll, is hoping to get about $1 million a year in tax revenue from the casinos. That’s still only 1.25 percent of an $80 million general fund budget in a district that axed $16 million from its spending since 2005, Bertram said.

The further fear, which materialized with the lottery revenues, is that casino revenues will further supplant state funding

“It took one or two biennium budgets and it’s in the same bucket of money as everything else,” Bertram said of lottery proceeds. “We don’t know how long this is going to last. It’s almost like stimulus money. You hope you get it, and you hope you can do good with it. You don’t rely on it.”

Here's a district by district breakdown of expected revenues.

Casino Revenue Analysis