Education News for 05-31-2013

State Education News

  • Ohio's school spending could shoot up (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • Ohio public school funding would grow by 11 percent over the next two years versus 2012- 2013 spending levels, the largest percent increase in education spending in at least a decade, under the proposal Senate Republicansā€¦Read more...

  • School aid would be boosted under Ohio Senate proposal (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  • Ohio Senate leaders this afternoon proposed boosting basic state aid to districts from $6.3 billion this school year to more than $7 billionā€¦Read more...

  • Ohio Senate ups education funding in budget (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Most Franklin County school districts would see state funding increases averaging nearly 9 percent per year under Senate-proposed changes to the new two-year budgetā€¦Read more...

  • Schools challenge families to scale back on tech use (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Her daughter yearned for the television, her son for his iPod. Both parents felt disconnected without phones and computers. But for one week they left electronics untouched.Well, at least the kids didā€¦Read more...

  • ODOT grants will help kids get to school more safely (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The Ohio Department of Transportation has approved $7.2 million in projects to improve safety for students getting to and from schoolā€¦Read more...

  • Senate funding plan aims to assist Ohio education system (Lorain Morning Journal)
  • A substitute version of Ohioā€™s school funding plan proposed by the Senate would increase aid for state education $717.4 million over the next 10 yearsā€¦Read more...

  • Bill with similarities to "Cleveland Plan" could soon pass for Columbus schools (Ohio Public Radio)
  • Itā€™s been a rough school year for Columbus City Schools. The district is under investigation by the State Auditorā€™s office and the FBI for tampering with student attendance data and grades. And the struggling district has a history of less-than-stellarā€¦Read more...

  • Senators say their school funding plan is constitutional (Ohio Public Radio)
  • Ohio Senators are calling their new budget plan ā€œa work in progressā€ but they are touting it as a major improvement in funding for Ohioā€™s public schoolsā€¦Read more...

  • State Senate plan for 2-year budget not as good for TPS (Toledo Blade)
  • Senate Republicans on Thursday said they will pump $717 million more into basic aid for K- 12 schools during the next two years in the budget they plan to approve next weekā€¦Read more...

  • School funding plan in the works could increase dollars for some districts (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Senate Republicans unveiled a new school-funding formula Thursday that likely will change as it moves through committee deliberations and passage in the Senateā€¦Read more...

Local Education News

  • Clear Fork to improve school routes (Mansfield News Journal)
  • The Ohio Department of Transportation said Thursday it will dole out $7.2 million for 58 different Safe Routes to School projects in Ohio communitiesā€¦Read more...

  • Brecksville-Broadview Heights educators hoping to expand EdCamp (Sun Newspapers)
  • A pair of Brecksville-Broadview Heights educators once again are teaming to host a free conference about educationā€¦Read more...

Senate budget - good, bad, ugly

The much anticipated Senate budget, when it comes to education policy, could be titled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". We've already discussed the ugly, let's take a look at the good and the bad.

The Good

The statewide parent trigger, proposed by the governor and eliminated by the house, is not proposed by the Senate either and appears dead, for now.

The Senate also includes a fix to HB555 and the onerous teacher evaluation provisions it contained. Here's what the fix proposes

Prescribes that the student academic growth factor must account for 35% (rather than 50% as under current law) of each evaluation under the standards-based state framework for evaluation of teachers developed by the State Board of Education and permits a school district to attribute an additional percentage to the student academic growth factor, not to exceed 15% of each evaluation.

Specifies that, when calculating student academic growth for a teacher evaluation, students who have had 30 or more excused or unexcused absences for the school year must be excluded (rather than excluding students with 60 or more unexcused absences as under current law).

Ohio Revised Code labels a student as a chronic truant if they are absent 14 days, so 30 days is still a high number of absences to allow, but it is certainly better than the ridiculous 60 days in current law. The reduction in the use of VAM to 35% from 50% is a welcome improvement.

The Governor proposed eliminating the single salary schedule, and the House concurred. The Senate however strikes this proposal from their budget. We suspect there will be pressure applied to put this back in. Educators and support professional should continue to apply their own pressure on legislators to keep it out.

The Senate also eliminated the home-school freeloading provision the House added that would have allowed home schoolers to participate in district extra-curricular activities at no expense.

The Bad

The Governor proposed a massive statewide voucher expansion effort, the House concurred, and the Senate has left the proposal in too. With massive opposition to this proposal we were a little surprised the Senate left this unnecessary proposal in their budget.

Charter schools get a number of additional free passes from the Senate, including an e-school exemption for phys ed., an additional qualifying condition for vouchers, and a provision that would make charter school closures more difficult as LSC notes it "May be more difficult to close community schools after July 1, 2013 (compared with current law after that date).". The Senate also eliminates a charter school teacher quality provision for charters populated primarily with students with disabilities. A number of other smaller provisions setting charter schools on a longer path to failure are also propsed by the Senate, such as:

Exempts students of chartered nonpublic schools accredited through the Independent School Association of the Central States from passing the end-of-course examinations as a prerequisite for graduation from high school.

The Charter school business doesn't contribute millions of dollars a year to Republican politicians for nothing.

The challenging

The Senate adds a new levy type aimed at school safety

Authorizes school districts to levy a property tax exclusively for school safety and security purposes. Requires the levy to comply with the same requirements that apply to general school district levies in excess of the 10-mill limitation.

A good intentioned proposal aimed at lowering violence in schools, but there should be concern that a safety levy might reduce local taxpayers appetites for funding levies for normal school operations, the core purpose of schools themselves. School districts will have to be mindful in how they approach this issue.

Here's the full comparative document of the education section of the budget

Senate Sub HB59

School funding disaster in the making

The Dispatch may have published this story on April Fools Day, but it is no joke. Lawmakers arenā€™t near a school-funding resolution

Faced with an unpopular formula, a fast-approaching deadline, and an uncertain amount of money, Rep. Gerald Stebelton doubts a final school-funding plan can be crafted by the time the two-year state budget is approved.

We have some sympathy for Rep Stableton. The Governor crafted his ill conceived defunding plan in secret, with little or no input from any stakeholders. The Governor then spent over a week trying to bamboozle everyone with his ridiculous claims of what his funding plan would do, only to have those claims fall to pieces once details of the defunding plan emerged.

The Lancaster Republican said the plan is for the House to pass ā€œsomething,ā€ and then send it to the Senate in April for more work by the June 30 deadline. But with time running short, he thinks itā€™s unrealistic that it can be fully resolved and provide school districts with answers about how funding will work in the future.

This is where our sympathy begins to run out. The GOP dominated legislature are struggling to devise an adequate and equitable funding system because they don't want to commit the money necessary to make that possible. Consequently they are left trying to move an inadequate amount of funding around in the hopes that they can find some magical distribution that works.

They are never going to find that solution at the currently proposed funding levels - levels which fall below those seen in 2009. Instead of adequately funding public education, the Republicans have an income tax cut fetish that few others support.

It is troubling that a Republican legislature is once again going to punt on creating a funding formula that works, and instead continue to lock in funding levels that are woefully inadequate.

And if you need any more proof that Michelle Rhee's billionaire funded StudentsFirst organization is nothing more than an anti-tax front group, this should do the trick

StudentsFirst, an education-reform organization founded by former Washington, D.C., schoolsā€™ chief Michelle Rhee, has proposed reworking the formula while spending no additional money.

We are not aware of any other pro-public education organization that thinks a workable solution can be found at the currently proposed funding levels. And as for Dick Ross, the architect of the currently proposed disaster of a funding plan, the State Board of Education just made him the State Superintendent.

Education News for 03-22-2013

Local Education News

  • Canton schools superintendent outlines reorganization plan Akron Beacon Journal)
  • A wide-ranging plan for Canton City Schools that would introduce more choice is taking aim at publicly funded charter schools that pull students ā€” and money ā€” from traditional buildingsā€¦Read more...

  • Conneaut school officials unveil defense plan Ashtabula Star-Beacon)
  • School officials in Conneaut unveiled their defense plan to parents and the public in case of an armed intruder Thursday night in the first of four meetings scheduled at each of the districts buildingsā€¦Read more...

  • Educators say ā€œstop the misuse of standardized testingā€ Athens Messenger)
  • Those who think thereā€™s an over-use of standardized testing in public schools have signed an online petitionā€¦Read more...

  • Reform not often demanded of school boards, panel told Columbus Dispatch)
  • Voters typically donā€™t replace ineffective school board members and rarely demand reform from failing districts, an education policy expert told the Columbus Education Commission yesterdayā€¦Read more...

  • Jackson school board member guilty in threats Columbus Dispatch)
  • A 25-year member of the Jackson City Schools Board of Education has been found guilty of intimidation of a public servant for sending threatening letters to educators and other school-board members in the southeastern Ohio districtā€¦Read more...

  • Strongsville Mayor's proposed meeting with teachers, school board is shot down Sun Newspapers)
  • Mayor Thomas Perciak's proposed negotiating meeting between the board and teachers union representatives at 10 a.m. March 22 has fallen throughā€¦Read more...

  • Parents share concerns over Supt. Hathorn's schools plan Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Gertrude and Alvin Hosea can live with city schools Superintendent Connie Hathornā€™s revitalization plan for the schools as long as their granddaughter gets to stay at Kirkmere Elementary School next yearā€¦Read more...

Surprise! Charters want even more money.

In testimony before the House Finance committee, Charter school operators and their boosters expressed sadness at the Governor's education budget. Despite school districts having to deduct $824 billion this school year to fund charter schools (most of which are failing), they want more. They argued they should receive

  • $5,704 per pupil, not $5,000, as the base amount (but would not answer the question of whether or not traditional public schools should receive a base amount higher than $5,000).
  • Up to $1,000 per pupil (instead of he proposed $100) for buildings and that online charter schools should also receive building funds

Only 5% of Ohio's students go to a charter school, and much less than 1% go to a quality one, yet charter operators and their boosters want more than 10% of the funding. These aren't fair or tennable requests being made, it is greed at the expense of the majority of students who choose to go to a traditional public school.

A minority budget

One thing is clear now the language of the Governor's budget bill (HB59) is available. No matter how you look at it, it is a minority budget.

First and most obviously the bill will be crafted by the Republican dominated legislature, with little input or amendment from the Democrats. This will be despite the fact that voters just a few short months ago voted for Democrats in far larger numbers than Republicans. The Republican gerrymandering of the state legislature will give Republican members a very false sense of voter support.

That false sense of support is already evident in recent polling of the Governor's budget.

Among the pollā€™s key findings are:

  • 60% of Ohioans say public schools need more state funding to improve
  • 59% say Ohio is doing too little to improve the quality of public education
  • 62% say helping localities fund schools, fire and police is more important to them than reducing the state income tax
  • 62% favor raising Ohioā€™s severance tax on oil and natural gas to the Texas rate ā€”and using the money to offset state budget cuts to local governments

It's clear then, that a party that received minority voter support only has minority support for its budget plans.

Finally, the reason these facts come into stark relief is because of the underlying policies - policies that enhance the welfare and benefit of a minority of Ohioans over the those of the majority.

On school funding:

  • The budget elevates private school vouchers and failing charter schools over traditional public schools, despite 90% of Ohio's students attending traditional public schools.
  • 382 of 612 school districts see no funding increase from the previous budgets baseline, which cut $1.8 billion - causing basic state aid to fall from $5,723 to a paltry $5,000.
  • Despite the Governor's promise that "the rich will get less and the poor will get more", his funding plan, where it does provide modest increases, does the exact opposite.
  • The Governor goes further, threatening that if reelected his next budget would eliminate $880 million in funding guarantees that some of the poorest school districts currently receive.

These are budget decisions that are not being forced on the Governor or his legislative allies, but are instead choices being made. These choices are being made in order to further support the minority over the majority in the form of massive tax breaks.

His proposed income tax cuts has the following effect

Plainly then, the Governor's budget prioritizes income tax cuts for the wealthy. This income tax reduction will equate to approximately $4.3 billion less in revenue to the state, resulting in less revenue to support key programs like education. Since May 2011, budget cuts to public schools have forced local districts to propose about $1.1 billion in new levies.

the legislature still has a lot of time to listen to the majority of Ohioans who want a more balanced approach to the budget than the minority one being proposed. Such balance would include restoration of funding to schools and communities, not cuts to these vital services that the majority rely upon. These investments will make our state stronger and more prosperous, and have a far greater long term positive impact than many of the minority provisions being proposed.

You can contact the Governor and ask that he take a more balanced approach that benefits everyone, not just the few.
Contact the Governor, here
Find and contact your legislator, here