“Crazy” is the word Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder used to describe the Ohio Senate’s changes to the House-approved budget bill, most specifically the removal of teacher evaluations and performance pay.

In response, Senate President Tom Niehaus said, “We want to honor the commitment that almost half of the school districts in the state of Ohio have already worked out with their teachers unions and administration [through Race to the Top].”  If this explanation by Niehaus can be trusted, then he made the correct call.  The House version of the bill guaranteed that millions of dollars in Race to the Top funding will be forfeited.

The uninformed and misguided opinion that this should be adopted in the legislation is summarized in today’s Dispatch editorial:

Development of merit-based systems already is part of Ohio’s federally sponsored Race to the Top education-reform program, which includes 300 Ohio school districts. It should be made the policy of the entire state.

I assume the Dispatch is willing to provide funding to replace the Race to the Top money the state will lose and I simply can’t wait to read how they’ll do so in an editorial next Sunday.  I suggest they speed-dial Batchelder and Kasich to find out their ideas for the replacement funding for development and subsequent implementation of these proposed state-mandated reforms.

So what’s the major difference between the Governor’s plan and RttT?  Collaboration.  With everything his excellency has tried to do in his brief reign over Ohio, you’d think he would have looked at the RttT criteria at some point.  As always, Plunderbund is here to help him out.

The Race to the Top application consisted of six priorities, with the first one aptly titled: Absolute Priority.

Priority 1: Absolute Priority — Comprehensive Approach to Education Reform
To meet this priority, the State’s application must comprehensively and coherently address all of the four education reform areas specified in the ARRA as well as the State Success Factors Criteria in order to demonstrate that the State and its participating LEAs are taking a systemic approach to education reform. The State must demonstrate in its application sufficient LEA participation and commitment to successfully implement and achieve the goals in its plans; and it must describe how the State, in collaboration with its participating LEAs, will use Race to the Top and other funds to increase student achievement, decrease the achievement gaps across student subgroups, and increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

In the application, this component of collaboration is again listed first and is renamed “State Success Factors.”  That’s right, this federal application considered the partnership of Local Education Associations (LEA) to be the main success factor for the implementation of RttT on a statewide level.  An increase in LEA participation was a key element in increasing Ohio’s score on the phase two application and earning the state $400 million in federal education funding.  The importance of this collaboration at the state level is evident by this comment on one of Ohio’s application review forms:

The significant number of letters of support, including a strongly-worded and postive [sic] letter from the Ohio Education Association; a letter from the Ohio Federation of Teachers; signatures from local union presidents in all participating LEAs . . . indicate that all parties are working in good faith and will try their best to stay engaged.

Seems like they’ve reneged on the agreement already with that “all parties are working in good faith” line.  When the Governor doesn’t collaborate with the LEAs in good faith bargaining, he violates the terms of the RttT agreement.  Expand that simple concept out across the five other priorities included in RttT and the USDoE could claim just cause for rescinding Ohio’s funding.  But just in case, there’s more damage to be done by Kasich and Batchelder.

Consider the idea that the teacher evaluation process would be specified in excruciating detail into Ohio law by way of the budget bill if Batchelder and Kasich get their way.  They will be unambiguously mandating the exact components that comprise a teachers evaluation with the stroke of a pen.  No research, no cost, voila!

$9.7 million — rescinded in a heartbeat.

In Ohio’s RttT scope of work:

GOAL: (D) (2) Ohio’s RttT participating districts and charter schools will design annual performance reviews for teachers and principals that include multiple measures with student growth as a significant factor.

To clarify what this means in terms of work, here is an excerpt from the Ohio Department of Education’s Race to the Top: Myths vs. Facts document

FACT: Each participating LEA will develop its own teacher and principal evaluation systems that are rigorous, transparent and fair.

I guess they’ll need to update that, eh?  And about that $9.7 million?  That’s the amount allocated in the budget for this part of the project.  And while John Kasich might think that he simply gets to keep that amount as a sort of bonus like when he “earned bonuses” from taxpayers at Lehman Brothers, he is still delusional.  As far as the USDoE is concerned, that money was allocated for school districts to collaborate and develop evaluation systems that are rigorous, transparent and fair.  That money was NOT designed for legislators to decree that all educators in the state shall undergo identical evaluation processes regardless of their unique situation and student population.

And so, with that work no longer needed, that funding is lost.  And what a predicament we find ourselves in now.  With Ohio breaking its application commitments to the USDoE, we now begin to find the state breaking more and more promises to the LEAs through the ongoing legislation.  More from the Myths vs. Facts document:

MYTH: Teachers will no longer be able to achieve tenure.
FACT: Teachers will continue to have the opportunity to achieve tenure status.

MYTH: Districts will be required to implement a state-mandated merit pay system.
FACT: Through RttT, districts may augment or otherwise revise compensation systems at the local level. Such changes must be made in collaboration with teachers and local unions. House Bill 1’s new licensure career ladder provides a framework for lead teacher roles which may include additional compensation for teachers in such expanded-roles. The decision on compensation systems remains with the LEAs.

MYTH: Ohio’s educational system will become more “top down” and prescriptive.
FACT: ODE will not prescribe how LEAs will use RttT funds to implement reforms at the local level. Each LEA will develop a Final Scope of Work which will describe how the district will use RttT funds to support RttT initiatives. ODE envisions flexibility in local implementation as long as the commitments in the Memorandum of Understanding are met.

So when every LEA drops out due to the backtracking of the legislators on their promises to educators, Ohio’s violation of the agreement will be too much for Governor Kasich to hide, and the RttT funding will rightly be withdrawn.

And so we will be left asking Governor Kasich and Speaker Batchelder how they will replace the remaining $300 million in education-related funding over the next three years.

  • How will Kasich fund the new statewide Instructional Improvement System meant to align school and student performance data across Ohio, including the foundation for the value-added data that is crucial in their oh-so-important merit pay and evaluation legislation? (GOAL C3)
  • How will Kasich fund the implementation of the new Common Core curriculum as required to be adopted by HB1 and adopted by the State Board of Education? (GOAL B1, B3)
  • How will Kasich fund Ohio’s adoption of an “effective system of student assessment” that is scheduled to replace the OAAs and OGTs in 2014? (GOAL B2)
  • How will Kasich fund the statewide research process to identify Ohio’s lowest achieving schools and significantly improve their performance? (GOAL E)

To be clear, the changes that Kasich, Batchelder and the Dispatch’s personal opinion page want to enact will absolutely cost Ohio any remaining Race to the Top dollars that have not yet been spent.  And whether you agree with RttT politically, Ohio has made long-term commitments that rely on this substantial amount of federal funding.  Having finished only the first year of the RttT grant, it is easily projected to be a $300 million loss for Ohio.  However, we must realize that the majority of this funding would have to be replaced as a result of the pledge to implement the other changes I referenced above, meaning the legislature will have to pull funds from somewhere else to manage the funding liability.

Through their budget that seeks to correct an alleged $8 billion deficit Governor Kasich and Speaker Batchelder are conspiring to relinquish Race to the Top funding that will cost Ohio an additional $300 million.

Who is going to pay for that?