Unfunded mandates won’t educate our children

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ohio House Republicans are right to make as one of their first priorities a bill to free school districts from the most senseless mandates included in the “evidence-based” school-funding plan put forward two years ago by former Gov. Ted Strickland.

The plan suffered from fundamental flaws, the most basic of which was that it was based on the idea that all of Ohio’s diverse school districts could find success by, essentially, filling a laundry list of jobs .

The more immediate problem forcing legislators’ hands is that school districts would have little hope of complying with the mandates, which include tuition-free all-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes.

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The plan offered no way to pay for such expensive changes; it didn’t even count up the cost.

Dictating spending increases with no specified revenue source would be irresponsible in a good year, but in a year when a crippling state-budget deficit is likely to cause sharp cuts in state funding to school districts, it’s impossible.

Bowling Green Republican Rep. Randy Gardner, the bill’s sponsor, said he wants it passed by mid-March.

That’s a good goal; eliminating the burdens imposed by Strickland’s plan will help lawmakers facing the gargantuan task of balancing a budget that will start off $8 billion short on the revenue side.

Ohio’s school districts confront the same challenges that have faced many of them for years. Persistent poverty and family problems hamper many students’ academic achievement, and stubborn bureaucracies resist innovations that could break through the logjam of failure. .

And in a time of unprecedented budget crunch, they certainly don’t need unfunded mandates they have no means to pay for.

The Columbus Dispatch