Kasich budget would help poorer schools

Overall K-12 funding would go up, but individual school districts could see very different results

The education policies proposed Monday by Gov. John Kasich would increase state funding to many poorer school districts and reduce funding in districts that the state says can afford to pay via local levies.

In the first year (2015-16) of Kasich’s budget plan, 287 school districts would receive funding increases and 323 districts would see decreases, according to Aaron Rausch, director of budget and school funding for the Ohio Department of Education. The next year, it would be 320 districts up and 290 down.

The state Office of Management and Budget is expected to release the projected impact to each individual school district this week.

Rausch said total state funding to K-12 schools would increase by $550 million during the course of the two-year budget. He said some districts could receive up to a 10 percent increase in funding, but no district will receive a reduction greater than 3 percent.

“If you have a greater capacity (to raise levy funds) in your district based on income and property values, the state should do less,” Kasich said in releasing his plan Monday.

The governor’s budget is still at the proposal stage, with the state legislature likely to weigh in with changes to some items between now and June.

Barbara Shaner, associate executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, cautioned that many details of Kasich’s education plan are still unknown. But Shaner said in general, OASBO is encouraged to see an overall increase in school funding. She also said Kasich’s desire to push funding to districts with less local capacity is generally a positive thing.

Ohio Superintendent Richard Ross said the state budget’s education proposals track four main goals that he and the governor share – holding charter schools more accountable, empowering local school boards, limiting student testing, and helping students earn early college credit.

** Charter schools: Ross repeated Columbus’ growing mantra calling for better charter oversight.

“I support high-quality charter schools because our families need choices in education,” Ross said. “But some Ohio charters are failing our students. We need to do more to improve poor-performing charter schools, or drive them out of business.”

Jessica Voltolini, legislative liaison for ODE, said the state began rating charter school sponsors Jan. 1. Sponsors rated “exemplary” will get additional funding and support. Other rating levels are effective, ineffective (which puts the sponsor on a one-year action plan), and poor, which will lead the state to revoke the agency’s sponsorship.

Under Kasich’s plan, charters could try to get voters to approve levy funding for the first time, but only if the public school board in their geographic area votes to put such a levy on the ballot. Shaner said OASBO is opposed to the concept of local levy funds going to charters.

* Empowering schools: Voltolini said the budget proposal calls for regulatory relief for schools, such as eliminating some paperwork and contracting rules, softening evaluation requirements for high performing teachers, and, in the case of the highest-performing schools, even softening class-size rules.

ODE spokesman John Charlton acknowledged that anytime the state provides more freedom, there is the potential for misdeeds if districts take advantage of the change improperly. But he emphasized there are still numerous ways for the state to maintain oversight of schools.

* Limiting testing: Kasich’s proposal closely follows the suggestions that Ross made in his Jan. 15 report to the state legislature. It calls for schools to spend no more than 2 percent of the school year on state and district tests, and no more than 1 percent of the time on practice tests.

* Other issues: Kasich wants to spend $13.5 million training more high school teachers as college adjunct faculty, so students can take advantage of the free College Credit Plus program. That mirrors a plan that Learn to Earn Dayton just launched for Montgomery County.

The budget calls for a $40 million increase in early childhood education funding, a line-item cheered by ReadySetSoar, which advocates for better early childhood education in the Dayton area.

For the EdChoice scholarship, which helps students from low-scoring schools go to private schools, Kasich wants to bump the value of the voucher from $5,000 per year to $5,700. The budget also calls for creation of a set of standards, evaluations and training money for school counselors.

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