Yesterday, our companion site, BudgetWatch, reported that the Administration finally released a school district by district breakdown of how Kasich’s budget would impact schools.  Given the Republicans in the General Assembly are dismantling Governor Strickland’s education reforms and his new evidence-based model and have not yet indicated how school funds would be distributed under the replacement formula, this was kind of critical information to put out there.

Nearly two weeks after the budget was released, the numbers were finally released (sort of).  I’ll let our BudgetWatch explain:

Keep in mind, the numbers shown here are misleading and do not tell the full story of funding for schools. They also paint the administration’s plan for schools in the best possible light. What these numbers compare are only three sources of funds for districts – state foundation funding, lottery proceeds and transportation subsidies to the districts for FY12 and 13 compared to the current fiscal year. Not shown here are the $3.1 billion in reductions that school districts will experience as a result of the loss of federal stimulus money, or the redirection of tax revenue that normally flows to school districts to the state coffers.

In other words, it only shows those areas in the budget that when viewed on their own makes it look like the schools are getting more money… by excluding the billions they’re actually losing.

I think the hope of the Administration is that the media would just report these numbers and create the general impression that local school districts were doing just fine.  It didn’t work out that way:

imageAccording to the Dispatch even using the Administration’s fuzzy math, most school districts are losing money before you even factor in Kasich’s tangible property tax reimbursement raid and the loss of the federal stimulus.  The loss of the stimulus alone, the Dispatch reports, takes the percentage of districts losing money from the 45% who lose out even before you factor in the stimulus to the 98% of all district once you do.

Kasich has said that the schools should have anticipated that the federal stimulus money would not be replaced.  However, he never exactly said during the campaign that schools should expect to see the State to replace the stimulus money, and Kasich, again, is being dishonest in blasting the schools.  The part of the federal stimulus money that the schools got were precisely to cover operational costs for schools.  The theory being that it help the economy to give schools stimulus money to offset State cuts that would occur without it leading to further jobs losses as districts would be forced to fire teachers and staff as State revenues plummeted.  As the economy improved over the two years, the economic growth in the States would raise the State coffers so that they could be able to fund the schools as they had.  The stimulus money, itself, was intended to be replaced with State funding as the economy improved.  Kasich is refusing to do it because that would mean the stimulus worked.  It’s petty partisan politics with school children being caught in the crossfire.

Which  brings me to today’s budget question of the day:

True or false: Most of the loss in education funding in Governor Kasich’s budget is caused by the loss of the federal stimulus money that Kasich’s budget doesn’t replace.

True, but…

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, schools are losing $871 million in federal stimulus basic aid money and another $788 million in federal stimulus for low-income and special needs students for a total of under $1.7 billion.  However, Kasich is also socking schools with over $1 billion more by raiding the tangible property tax reimbursement program and other tax programs that was promised funding for schools that are instead going to balance Kasich’s own budget.  Even if the school districts could have seen the hit from the federal stimulus coming, they were completely blindsided with Kasich over $1 billion roundhouse punch by raiding the business tax reimbursement programs.

Just as it does with local governments, Kasich’s budget gives K-12 public education a 1-2 punch that no other area of the budget takes.  Why is Kasich hiding the ball on his budget.  The numbers are the numbers.  The Kasich Administration is incredibly image obsessed and has repeatedly lied or mislead the media to try to present their spin on things beyond all credibility.  The Ohio media bit early on, but they’re catching on. 

Credibility is like currency in media relations.  Once you get a reputation as playing loose with the facts, it harms your long-term ability to execute an effective media strategy.  I don’t know which I’m more stunned by: how aggressive from a media and communication standpoint the Kasich Administration is to spin the news, or how bad they are in doing it.  Close call.   But this is yet another instance in which the Kasich Administration tried to intentionally mislead Ohioans through the media.  But this time, the media didn’t bite.

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