“Education, K-12 and post-secondary, of course it’s critical to our economic future. But I want to tell you, more choice, more accountability, more dollars in the classroom instead of bureaucracy will improve our schools, and we are going to have a significant reform agenda. . .”—Governor John Kasich, State of State address

Does Kasich’s budget do that?

DispatchSchoolFundingHeadline Yesterday, knowing that the media would be focused on the latest developments on SB 5, the Kasich Administration did a massive budgetary document dump finally releasing both the statutory language of the entire budget and more accurate school district funding impact projections yesterday. 

Except it’s a patchwork of projections that require you to examine two separate sheets on the business property tax reimbursement raid and then two other separate sheets on the utility tax reimbursement raid.  You then have to take those numbers and compare them to the foundation aid projects they made last week.

For example, last week the Kasich Administration reported that my school district in Butler County, Lakota, would gain $1,422,926 over the biennium in foundation aid compared to what they get now.  However, yesterday, the Kasich Administration projects the district will lose $5,717,596 over the biennium in business personal property tax reimbursements compared to what they get now, leading to a net loss of $4,294,670 in funding.  In a district that is rated Excellent with Distinction.  Clearly, Kasich’s funding formula doesn’t award districts funding based on performance.  Lakota has seen enormous population growth which has not been matched with state aid.  With property values plummeting thanks to the economy, Lakota has been battling with a huge deficit that has forced the school to cut many of its quality educational and sports programs.  Kasich’s budget makes the situation even worse.

Let’s re-examine the Kelley Bonar-Williams situation (or as Gov. Kasich calls her “that lady in Akron.”)  Akron City Schools are rated as Continuous Improvement.  Copley-Fairlawn, where Bonar-Williams fraudulently enrolled her kids to avoid paying tuition, is rated Excellent with Distinction.  Yet Kasich’s budget, according to the Plain Dealer, would cut Akron only 3% once the property tax and utility tax raids are factored in.  Copley-Fairlawn faces a 45% cut in state funding.  Granted, Akron is losing twice as much money, but it’s also a much bigger school district.

For all of Kasich’s bravado publicly, the reason Kasich’s education funding has been so hard to work out is that it’s trying to please everyone.  Despite Kasich’s public protestations that school districts who relied on the stimulus funding for operational expenses should have expected large cuts, Kasich’s budget documents admits that he sought to protect them the most:


However, Kasich’s bump in foundational aid that he says was to help district’s deal with the loss of federal stimulus funds was only around 1/4th the amount of the federal stimulus money the districts are losing.  On top of that, a significant portion of Kasich’s “bump” in foundation funding is diverted to quadrupling the money going to for-profit charter schools and school vouchers.

Then when Kasich decided to “accelerate,” or more accurately, raid the school district’s business tangible property tax, he, again, sought to minimize the political damage to his Republicans in the legislature by trying to tweak the formula to minimize the impact on those districts that relied on these reimbursements the most.  Had he not, Kasich’s budget would have cut Lakota’s funding even further than the over $4 million loss they’re already facing.

In the end, it’s is more accurate to say that Kasich’s budget is negative-performance based model… as it appears that the school systems that come out the best in his budget are the ones the Ohio Department of Education considers to be the worse performers.   Most of the charter schools in Franklin County performing either no better or worse than the Columbus City School District.  And yet, Kasich’s budget rewards a system that by any objective measure is doing worse than most public schools.

Recently, the Dispatch’s editorial board attempted to defend Kasich’s preference for charter schools saying:

It is true that Ohio’s charter schools still are proving themselves. But there is an important difference between a substandard charter school and a substandard conventional public school: When a charter school fails, it closes. When district public school fails, it remains open and students continue to suffer.

Except that’s not the whole story.  There’s a major loophole in Ohio’s charter school laws.  Yes, underperforming charter schools can be forced to close, but nothing prevents the same owner from reopening a charter school at the same location, using the same staff and equipment, just under a new name.  Worse yet, by simply changing the name, the “new” charter school is able to operate years before it is forced to change its name again if the same system continues to produce the same failing result.  The closing of a failing charter school is really a toothless remedy.  This isn’t just a hypothetical as this Toledo Blade story shows.

Kasich’s budget punishes districts that are performing well.  While I admire his desire to not starve struggling districts of even more resources, I cannot ignore that his budget formula seems to pull all districts away from excellence.  Call it the Audacity of Mediocrity.  But don’t call it reform.

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  • Even if we ignore the same charter opening under a different name, I don’t get how we’re supposed to view closing a school in a positive light anyway. Assuming for a moment that no public schools exist, because that seems to be the model they are after, if a charter school sucks and closes, then all those kids go where?

    As for that bit of trickery, that’s the same exact model that led to the bursting of the housing bubble and the meltdown of the US economy. Bad investors/banks/whatever close and reopen under a different name, thus shedding all their debt, all their legal obligations, all the investigations and yet continue to operate. Who needs reform? Things seem totally fine the way they are. /sarcasm

  • buckeyekelly

    One of the loudest arguments I’ve ever heard FOR charter schools is “throwing money at a problem [failing school] doesn’t solve the problem.” Isn’t that what Kasich’s doing here?

    Additionally, from all the Strengths Based Leadership stuff I’ve been gobbling up, the most productive and successful companies and leaders don’t focus on their weaknesses, but rather focus on their strengths. This budget seems to do just that.

    In high school, the gifted, well-behaved kids got the shaft. We had to fight for a room to study in, we had to raise money to get our AP books, never mind the boosters for our extra-curricular activities and begging a teacher to have time to help us. But the kids that acted up, performed poor and didn’t even want to be there? They had the whole cafeteria and audiotorium for after school detention, they had 4 guidance counselors (gifted kids or those on the fast track to college had no help with scholarship applications) to help with keeping them out of juvy, and oodles of “tools” thrown at them to save them. Yeah, we did alright, but the disparity and at least passive aggressive punishment for doing well and reward for doing bad is an appropriate comparison.

  • JimD

    The district in which I teach is losing all of its foundation aid for 2012 and significant portions of the business and utility tax reimbursements as well. Our state funding will be reduced by 53% and will be cut further in 2013. This for a district that has been rated Excellent with Distinction repeatedly. Furthermore, our performance index on the state report card has also increased steadily. So even though we could “rest on our laurels,” the teachers in our district continue to push our students to achieve at higher and higher levels. Further evidence, that excellence will not be rewarded under this budget.

  • CDR Jan

    Well, cutting state funding to Copley-Fairlawn Schools by 45% should get those Republicans in Copley and Fairlawn fired up against Kasick. They’re already ticked off that he took Kelley Williams-Bolar’s whining at face value and presumptuously stuck his nose in where it doesn’t belong.

    It’s all good.

  • Anonymous

    Modern- Here in southern Delaware County, Olentangy Schools are suffering the same fate as Lakota and Copley-Fairlawn. Olentangy Local has been pretty consistently one of the fastest growing school districts in the state. The voters have to keep ponying up because the school district is opening one to two new school buildings per year to keep up.
    How is it that a neighboring school district like Dublin that has a higher home valuation per pupil, similar enrollment and similar performance is only taking an 11 percent cut and Olentangy is taking a 44%-48% cut (depending on the tables)? This will devastate Olentangy and any other school losing almost half of their state aid. I just cannot figure out how they arrived at such a deep cut.

  • dlw

    And let’s not forget that the schools can just close down during the school year. Remember the one that was in City Center Mall that was basically just closed one day? Presumably the majority of those kids go back to their district. But it’s incredibly disrupting to a student’s education to just up and change their school one day. And how are the public districts supposed to deal with the sudden influx of kids… just out of the blue one day? We’re supposed to be comforted by this supposed “fix” to a failing charter? I don’t think so…

  • Anonymous

    I did a quick look and it seems that the 2012 State Foundation Support cuts are disproportionately harsh on some counties more than others.

    Why is the Governor hating on Franklin, Geauga, Lake, Ottawa, and Summit Counties?

  • Tarfam325

    John Kasich keeps comparing the “Public” and “Private” sectors and claiming Public Employees need to be treated more like the private sector. Name ONE business… anywhere in the state… that could take a cut in funding between 15-75% over a period of two years and ask its workers to take HUGE pay cuts while still INCREASING the % they must pay for their benefits and DISMANTLING the working conditions to likely DOUBLE their workload under the guise of needing to make SACRIFICES while the BOSS increases his budget by 8% and adds jobs for his buddies to the tune of $300,00+ and takes over the worker’s fund which protected their funding since 1935 and THEN tells them he will only pay them if all of their FELLOW WORKERS do well on a test. THEN, you have a FAIR COMPARISON!!!

  • Tarfam325

    Oh, and as an additional comparison, the business would make the most severe cuts t the MOST effective departments and shift a large majority of business funds into a low performing sub-contracted segment of the business which would be in direct competition with the workers employed by that business… but they would not be held AT ALL ACCOUNTABLE for their performance on the same test. Yeah…then you could compare the private and public sectors quite effectively!

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