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.

Kasich escalates public ed defunding

Ohioans would see income taxes fall, but would pay for them through higher sales and property taxes in the final Republican proposal

That's how the Cincinnati Enquirer opens its report on the massive last minute tax plan the Ohio GOP are planning to dump on the state, after months of internal disagreements.

Of particular concern to those who support public education, the budget conference committee decided not to restore the historic school funding cuts they made in the previous budget, but instead build upon it. Here was their starting point

FY12 (2011-2012 school year), which was the first year under Kasich's budget, saw a total of $7.52 billion in total state revenues. That's an 8% cut in total state revenue -- easily the largest cut since ODE started keeping these total state revenue figures in 1995.

And the bad news for districts is that FY12 won't represent the entire state divestment from education during Kasich's first budget. That's because the governor's budget phased down the Tangible Personal Property and Killowatt Hour tax reimbursement payments over two years. So the cut will be likely continued in FY13, pushing the total revenue figure down even lower.

As it stands, that $7.52 billion is the lowest amount provided by the state since the 2007-2008 school year.

Where they have ended up is even worse. In order to pay for their income tax cut, they have decided to eliminate the 12.5% property tax rollback.

The elimination of the property tax rollback will make future school levies harder to pass and more expensive, further shifting the burden from the state to local communities already struggling to support the needs of their students.

Eliminating the 12.5 percent property tax rollback for new taxes could make school levies harder to sell to voters. For example, without the rollback, last year's 15-mill Cleveland school levy would have cost $263 a year instead of $230 for the owner of a $50,000 home, and $525 a year instead of $459 for the owner of a $100,000 home.

The Governor and his legislative allies continue to shift the burden from millionaires to working people and their communities. We're going backwards at a time when the state can afford to move forward.

Adequately funding my school

JTF recently recieved this essay from Worthington City Schools senior, Hassan Mizra.

Education helps broaden the minds of young individuals to help them achieve success in the future. All across America students go to school to learn and prepare for their futures. Just imagine the students walking into a classroom with new desks with four stable legs, new chairs that aren’t cracked or missing parts and sitting down to their personal laptop provided by the school. This sounds like a school that most parents would want their children to attend. Wouldn’t it be great if all schools had all these? Wouldn’t it be fascinating if all students were able to partake in an improved quality of education for every school?

The state's previous budget cut public school funding by $1.8 billion, which ultimately hurt Ohio's public education system. Ohio Governor John Kasich introduced a new state budget, which proposed a reform of the school funding formula. The new budget promised more money to the less funded school districts, but the promise proved empty. But the Governor, through the Republican dominated legislature, is doing the exact opposite. They are continuing to underfund public schools while increase funding to charter schools and further pushing public education into the hands of private corporations.

For the 2011-12 school year, Worthington Schools received $54,952,536 all total funds, and Olentangy Local Schools received $50,863,323. These two districts are 2 of the best in central Ohio, where they benefit from higher than typical property valuations. An essential aspect for each of these districts' high ratings is because they receive the necessary funding that a public school district should have.

However, the underfunding of public schools in Ohio is an enormous issue that affects many people, especially students. There is a need to re-work the current formula used by Ohio to determine how school funds are disbursed and also to increase public support for education funding. Limited funds for public schools have primarily affected the poor and have put them at a disadvantage in getting a quality education. Whitehall, generally speaking, has a lower property valuation. The schools in Whitehall do not receive the sufficient funding they deserve as a public school district.

Unequal funding throughout the state demonstrates the unfairness some school districts face. Is it fair that schools that reside in low property valuation areas don’t have the necessities to educate their youth?

The reason that some schools can't do things like buy computers and maintain their buildings to begin with is because the school funding system is so ineffective. The US government pays only 7% of all school money, and the rest is up to the state and the local tax-payers. Whatever money the state won't pay is paid as school income tax or property taxes, which are higher or lower depending on how much the property is worth, and the incomes of the districts residents. But this means that schools in poor neighborhoods get little money while wealthy schools get nearly all they need.

The Governor needs to start funding public education fairly and adequately. According to the Ohio Association of Independent Schools (OAIS) the vast majority Ohio students, roughly 1.85 million attend public schools, so it would make sense for the Governor to turn his attention towards public education. Despite whether a child's parents are wealthy or poor, it is in everyone's interest to guarantee that America's future generations are both highly skilled and well educated.

Budget announcement analysis

Yesterday, is a carefully orchestrated rollout, the Governor revealed elements of his school funding plan. He could have titled it "Under-investment is our new normal in school funding".

His plan involves a new mechanism for allocating state dollars to public schools, but before we get to that, let's take a look at the actual funding levels he is proposing.

The 2011 school GRF budget allocated $6.3 billion for fiscal year 2012, and $6.4 billion for fiscal year 2013. This produced the largest school funding cuts in state history which, according to an Innovation Ohio study, has led to voters having to consider $1.1 billion in new property and income taxes for schools. Voters passed just over 40% of that amount, approving school levies equal to $487 million in new taxes. With that as a backdrop, supporters of public schools were hoping for significant restoration of that funding and alleviation of local property tax burdens. So what did the Governor unveil?

Dick Ross and Barbara Mattei-Smith, two of Kasich's main education advisers, said the long-promised plan calls for $6.2 billion in basic state aid for the 2013-14 school year, [...] and $6.4 billion for 2014-15

At best that appears to be a status-quo under-investment of Ohio's public schools. However, during the presentation the Governor and his aides all expressed the following

If approved by the Ohio General Assembly, school districts would not experience any drop in funding in the next two years (July 1 to June 2015). However, Ross said, that level of funding would not be sustainable and would have to eventually decline.

The Governor reiterated that funding guarantees would be eliminated after this budget and districts should expect more cuts. To a system that has already suffered $1.8 billion in cuts that ought to be chilling. To avoid some of the rollout day chills, the Governor did not have district level funding numbers available - they should be available later next week.

Along with this basic GRF funding the Governor did announce a number of new programs and program expansions

Additional items, including $300 million for grants to encourage innovation in districts, bump the total cost of the plan to $7.4 billion for 2013-14 and $7.7 billion for 2014-15.

Much of this money is one-time, requires grant applications to be approved, or is ear-marked for specific purposes, such as

  • Funding of $190 million for special needs students, plus $45 per pupil in every school to fund gifted students;
  • Additional support of $207 million for 3- and 4-year-olds with disabilities;
  • New funding of $185 million for districts with the least amount of access to public preschool programs.

While this is welcomed, there is also a significant expansion of money going to charter schools and vouchers.


Included in the proposal are several provisions that dramatically increase the availability for school vouchers in the state, including a statewide income-based scholarship for families earning less than 200% of federal poverty (roughly $46,000 for a family of four) and a literacy-based scholarship for students who consistently fail the state's third grade reading test. A full 1.8 million students would qualify for the new plan's income requirements

The new vouchers would give about $4,250 a year toward private-school tuition to any kindergartener in the first year and first graders in the second year. The extra cost would be about $8.5 million in the first year, and $17 million the second year.

Charter Expansion

While new charter school accountability mechanisms were missing from the Governors proposals, extra money for them was not. For-profit charter schools will see an increase in state funding with those schools receiving the same dollar amount per student as their public counterparts, along with $100 more per student to help pay for facilities.

The $100 per student facilities payment will amount to around $13 million dollars. The "Money follows the child" provision will cause significant hardship to poorer districts that can least afford to lose state aid to low performing charter schools, which brings us to the new formula.

The Funding Mechanism

The Governor has moved away from trying to determine the cost of a quality education and funding it at that level to instead considering a communities ability to pay and having the state attempt to equalize that across school districts. The Plain Dealer describes is like this

Mattei-Smith said this plan tries to reduce the difference through a complicated formula to provide aid to districts with lower property values in two stages. The first takes the 20 mills of property taxes that most every district in Ohio charges at a minimum. Though Mattei-Smith said only 24 districts in Ohio have $250,000 of property value per student -- an amount that raises $5,000 per student with the 20 mills -- the plan will raise every district to that amount.

The state will cover the gap between the $5,000 figure and what 20 mills raises per student in that district. Because charter schools can't use property taxes, the state will cover the entire $5,000 as their base funding.

The second phase aims to equalize residents' ability to pay property taxes in addition to the 20 mills. Districts typically have about 35 mills billed to residents, but Kasich's staff said many residents don't have the income to afford those added taxes.

The plan ranks districts in wealth based half on property vales and half on household income, then separates the bottom 80 percent from the top 20 percent. The top 20 percent will receive no additional state aid.

The plan aims to boost the remaining 80 percent of districts, with those at the top getting state aid equivalent to charging another 5 mills in taxes. The lowest ranked districts will receive state aid up to the equivalent of as much as 15 mills.

This extra money will "follow the student" -- to use a phrase that Kasich and his staff used in the weeks leading up to Thursday's announcement -- as they go to charter schools. That means that a charter school, whether it be in a building or online, will receive more money for students from a poor district like Cleveland than it would from a richer one like Beachwood or Westlake.

The non-partisan, highly respected KnowledgeWorks released this statement, which captures the essence well.

Ohio Governor John Kasich’s proposal for a new school funding formula for primary and secondary public education includes many good ideas to help propel Ohio’s public education system forward but fails to ensure all students have adequate resources to succeed, Ohio Education Matters said today.

While more details are needed to fully assess the plan, which was released today in a Columbus briefing, the initial reaction is that the school funding plan does nothing to assure that students have enough resources to meet higher standards and expectations, said Andrew Benson, Executive Director of Ohio Education Matters, a division of KnowledgeWorks.

There appears to be many devils hiding in the not too clear details, but what is clear is that under funding Ohio's students education is now the new normal.

Here's the Presentation the Governor gave

2013 Ohio Gov. School Funding Plan Presentation by

Education News for 10-25-2012

State Education News

  • Staff earns cash for grades (Dayton Daily News)
  • Springboro Community City Schools is planning to pay staff more than $200,000 in bonuses…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Lakota anticipates spending deficits in next 4 of 5 years (Hamilton Journal-News)
  • Spending deficits are projected in Lakota’s near future, and school officials have said further budget reductions will have to come…Read more...

  • Granville schools, Lodge strike deal on valuation (Newark Advocate)
  • The Granville School District and five other tax districts will not have to refund tax collections to the current owners of Cherry Valley Lodge because of a decrease in the lodge’s property valuation…Read more...

  • BP sets STEM curriculum (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • Trumbull County Schools' new curriculum will give students a competitive edge in both their education and their career of choice…Read more...

  • Lorain: School system, city on the brink (WKYC)
  • The city of Lorain and the Lorain City School District are struggling to survive. The area has been hit hard by the economy and unemployment, and families are struggling to get by…Read more...

Education News for 09-21-2012

State Education News

  • Top Ohio court keeps levy repeal off ballot (Columbus Dispatch)
  • 2 Westerville school officials won’t have to worry about making $7 million in budget cuts this school year…Read more...

  • Safety forces teach students how to respond in emergencies (WOIO)
  • 2 The Cuyahoga County Office of Emergency Management is teaming up with the city and schools in Independence on a National Preparedness Day event…Read more...

Local Education News

  • Lawsuits fly over Stow school board meetings (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • 2 The Stow school board has filed its response and counterclaim against board member Rod Armstrong…Read more...

  • Columbus schools chief Harris leaving (Columbus Dispatch)
  • 2 Columbus Superintendent Gene Harris, the nation’s longest-serving urban school superintendent, unexpectedly announced yesterday that she will retire in July…Read more...

  • Two hit lists found in Kenton schools this week (Lima News)
  • 2 What normally would have been a regular school week turned into a dramatic one for Kenton schools. On Monday, there was a hit list found at Kenton Middle School and on Wednesday, one was found in Espy Elementary…Read more...

  • Property issue may hurt Granville schools (Newark Advocate)
  • 2 A potential reduction in the valuation of the Cherry Valley Lodge property sought by its former and current owners could inflict another…Read more...

  • New Boston parents react to school delays (Portsmouth Daily Times)
  • 2 Parents of children in the New Boston School district are feeling a little disappointed this week, upon news that the opening of the new school…Read more...

  • Cleveland school levy costly but vital (WKYC)
  • 2 This fall, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has a levy on the ballot asking voters to pass their comprehensive restructuring…Read more...