Yesterday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Governor-elect Kasich was in Cleveland and telling the local leadership there that if the Cleveland Municipal School District didn’t improve its academic performance, he’d seek legislative authority to have the State take it over.
Kasich has not drafted a specific proposal but said Wednesday that he favors putting a "special master" in control of school districts like Cleveland with chronically low graduation rates and test scores. He did not set a deadline for improvements but said he wouldn’t wait four years, the length of an Ohio governor’s term.
Of course, the State already has the authority to take over school districts that are academically underperforming. It’s long had that authority. At least since 2003.
Of course, the school district had just been moved from “academic watch” by the Ohio Department of Education to “continuous improvement” this past year, which means the district has undertaken changes that has made progress in meeting expected academic standards that include the graduation rate. However, that improvement was not enough that the district was found to meet the standards for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYR). That means that the district can still expect potential increasing State control over the district if it doesn’t show more improvement under existing state law. (Here’s a good primer on Ohio’s school accountability standards, which admittedly is hard to follow at times.)
So beyond the fact that Kasich could potentially use existing state law to do what he thinks new authority would be needed, there’s something else that bothers me about this.
John Kasich’s legislative allies have said that school districts better expect state funding cuts somewhere between 15% to 20%, so that Kasich can continue to balance the budget while instituting repeal of Ohio’s income tax. And Kasich has justified his decision to scrap Governor Strickland’s evidence-based model because Kasich claims, falsely, that it constitutes an unfunded mandate on local school district.
It’s easy politics to publicly talk tough about failing schools, but Kasich isn’t “walking the walk” until he starts telling districts like Cleveland Municipal what he’s prepared to do to prevent struggling districts like it from losing the resources they need to avoid a State takeover. I didn’t hear anything about what he’s offering the district to help them avoid a State takeover.
Maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t telling a district to do more or face a State takeover while offering them less the very nature of an “unfunded mandate?” I guess not if it comes from a Republican.