Seriously, I wonder how thick the concrete wall must be that you have to regularly bash your head into just so one is capable of writing an editorial for the Columbus Dispatch.  Saturday’s editorial was a real treat in “Kasich can do no wrong, Strickland no right” land.

His primary product toward that end was his "evidence-based model" for funding schools – a plan that called for steep increases in education spending, without providing any way to pay for them.

Part of that way was the “Race to the Top,” a $400 million grant program that was part of the school reforms that came with Strickland’s evidence-based school funding reform package.  But only in Dispatch-land can a funding formula create unfunded mandates but the rest of the reform package does not.

Fortunately, as a spokesman for Kasich said last week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has assured Kasich that Ohio will retain its Race to the Top grant.

Seriously, this counts as journalism in Ohio: John Kasich announced that he isn’t putting school funding reform money in jeopardy.  Of course, the Dispatch hasn’t confirmed this with… the U.S. Department of Education.  We’re literally taking Kasich’s word on this.  Well, the Dispatch is, we’re actually waiting to hear back from the U.S. Department of Education seeking their confirmation or clarification as to precisely what U.S. Department of Education Arne Duncan told Governor-elect Kasich.

But let’s take a step back for a second.  What the Dispatch would have you believe is that the funding formula created “unfunded mandates” but the rest of the reform package that came with it did not.  That’s nonsense.  By definition a funding formula cannot do this unless the formula will be:

Kasich school funding formulaAnd that very well may be Kasich’s school funding formula.  We don’t know.  He won’t tell anyone publicly.

“That’s good news, and easy to believe, because Race to the Top isn’t about how schools are funded; it aims to reward and encourage states that are willing to put in place the policies that Duncan’s brand of education reformers believe will allow schools to improve and American students to better achieve. These emphasize curriculum and accountability measures.”

Actually, that’s highly misleading.  According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, Race to the Top was specifically designed to:

“Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms around four specific areas:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.”

The evidence-based model was specifically designed to help turn around out lowest-achieving schools by giving the poorer school district the financial resources they needed without relying on hiking property taxes.  To say that there’s no connection between the evidence-based model proposed by Governor Strickland and the “Race to the Top” ignores the fact that the evidence-based model was part of Ohio’s score on the application.

“Some of the ideas are opposed by teachers unions, which helps explain why nearly half of Ohio’s school districts will be left out of Race to the Top funds, because their teachers unions refused to endorse the application.

“Much of Strickland’s evidence-based model, on the other hand, is a boon to teachers unions. It is based on the idea that the way to improve education is to follow a rigid hiring formula – add a certain number of teachers, counselors and nurses per student – without regard for an individual district’s needs, strengths or weaknesses or alternative strategies for improvement. This is a recipe for the creation of more union jobs and higher education costs.”

Nonsense, the evidence-based model was how the reforms the Dispatch applauds was envisioned and would be funded.  Without the evidence-based model, there’s no way of knowing how these reforms are going to be funding beyond the Race to the Top money which isn’t sufficient on its own to implement them.  Nobody seems willing to discuss this rather inconvenient fact in Kasichland.

What’s really pathetic about the Dispatch is that it has—yet again—applauded Kasich for his embrace of certain reforms while bashing Strickland, but not once recognizing that it wasn’t Kasich who enacted these reforms that made Ohio eligible for Race to the Top, but Strickland.  It never mentions that Strickland as the source of these reforms.

The Dispatch has gone as far as to actually write:

“In any event, Strickland’s plan has little bearing on Ohio’s future.”

Never mind that the “Race to the Top” money that the Dispatch applauds Kasich for embracing would not have been possible without Governor Strickland’s reforms that Kasich, reportedly, claims will have some bearing on Ohio’s future during his Administration..

Never mind that the Dispatch ignores that the very criticism they heap on Strickland applies even stronger with Kasich—Kasich has no ability beyond “Race to the Top” to pay for these reforms he now, belatedly, is embracing.

In fact, Governor-elect Kasich has done nothing to dispel the rumors that Ohio public schools have been told from Columbus that they can expect anywhere between 10% to 30% cuts in their funding.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, twenty-eight school districts, including some charter schools, have informed the Ohio Department of Education that they are withdrawing from participating in Ohio’s “Race to the Top” program because they “cannot afford to implement the reforms”, even with the additional federal money.  Anyone who thinks these decisions have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that these districts have been told to prepare for MASSIVE cuts in state funding is fooling themselves.

Even setting aside Kasich’s decision to scrap altogether the evidence-based funding model (with still no replacement model offered in sight), Kasich’s budget cutting alone may jeopardize Ohio’s ability to implement the “Race to the Top” reforms.  And we still don’t know precisely what education reforms Kasich has embraced?  We all presume that Kasich is scrapping all-day kindergarten since, without the evidence-based  model, that is now clearly an “unfunded mandate.”

But what the Dispatch and Kasich don’t realize is that if Kasich cuts state education funding anywhere between ten to thirty percent then these reforms they’re celebrating, also, become an “unfunded” mandate.  Or at least a seriously underfunded one.

Kind of odd that nobody else has noticed that.

Almost as odd as people not questioning how Kasich is talking about massive cuts in education while still promising “more funding in the classrooms.”