Governor’s education plans simply don’t add up

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, June 6, 2009

I am writing to share my views on Governor Strickland’s proposed “Evidenced-Based Model” for funding education in Ohio.

I do not support the plan at this point for the following reasons:

1) It increases the reliance on local property taxes by mandating that schools do such things as hiring social workers and additional support staff. The plan, as it is phased-in, does not pay for these provisions and has no funding mechanism. By not providing the dollars necessary to pay for the Governor’s mandates and actually cutting funding for some school districts, local school boards would be forced to place levies on the ballot more often.

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2) The DeRolph decision was largely based on the amount of money being spent on students in different parts of the state, which created disparity between districts and impacted the quality of education available to each student. The Legislature has worked over the past decade, with some success, to narrow the gap between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts. Governor Strickland and the House Democrats’ plan takes us backward by increasing disparity between schools.

The House-passed version of the Governor’s EBM would increase per-pupil funding for Upper Arlington City Schools in suburban Columbus by 153.6 percent over 10 years, but the district already spends more than any school in the 17th Senate District. While Upper Arlington would receive a triple digit increase, districts in Lawrence County would be required to meet the Governor’s mandates with much less funding. The highest increase for a district in Lawrence County is Chesapeake Union SD at 42 percent over 10 years, while the lowest would be Fairland Local SD at 16.4 percent. It is unlikely that these increases would even cover inflation, let alone pay for all the new mandates in the EBM. What is certain is that the Strickland plan would increase disparity between school districts.

3) You may ask the same question I asked, “Why are the education associations willing to let school districts be cut in some cases, when in the past, they have opposed other plans that would have pumped much more money into education?” I met with representatives from these groups, and they were clear about their motive. They said they are willing to throw almost everything overboard and take the short term cut, because in the next biennium, under the Governor’s plan, they would have a say about what would be funded and by how much, regardless of the cost to the state and Ohio taxpayers. I am not willing to delegate the authority of the Legislature to an association, which is unelected and has a narrow focus (85 percent of education spending is for salaries).

It is disturbing that some school officials have adopted the position of the associations without hearing the other side, especially since they have shown they are willing to shortchange schools in Southern Ohio and other rural parts of the state. A former Chillicothe City Treasurer and the current Teays Valley Treasurer did an analysis which shows that the Governor’s plan does increase disparity between districts.

There are parts of the Governor’s plan that I do support and others that need more work outside of the budget process. For example, using the ACT instead of the Ohio Graduation Test as a requirement for graduating high school may be a good idea, but I do not want to do that without hearing the debate and understanding the consequences. I am confident that debate will take place.

I am pleased that the Governor, First Lady and House Speaker are all visiting the 17th District to express their viewpoints, but when they do, they should be prepared to answer the above points. I will be glad to support the Governor when he proposes a plan that benefits every child in Ohio instead of one that focuses on funding buildings and special interest groups. I pledge to work with the Governor and House to arrive at the best plan possible.

John. A. Carey, Jr.

State Senator, 17th District