While a team of legislators led by Republican Ron Amstutz have schedule hearings across the state about school funding, the Kasich administration has his own team meeting in secret to craft his school funding plan.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer shared a key insight into what we can expect from Kasich’s plan: consolidation.

No big surprise, but not exactly what we would call a “funding” solution, but instead more state regulation over school operations. Kasich has long preached about his desire to have local governments consolidate their services in order to fix his budget, and forcing schools to do so to fit his personal philosophy is a logical next step for him to take.  Instead of figuring out a method of funding to improve services for schools, Kasich wants to combine services across districts to cut costs and the quality of the operation.

Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols expresses an opinion the Governor has held even prior to his election, “The money is going to overhead, red tape and bureaucracy instead of instruction. Ohio is one of the worst states in driving dollars to the classroom, and we want to flip that and bring more money into the classroom and less into overhead.

Much easier said than done, especially when the administrations actions are taking us in the opposite direction.  The administration has continued to enact bill after bill that meets the very definition of red tape and bureaucracy, most of which we have written about on Plunderbund — teacher retesting, the third grade retention plan (with its increased student testing), teacher merit pay, a new school ranking system, a new school grading system, and a never-before-tested teacher evaluation system.  In addition, we had significant reforms that were already in the process of being enacted in Ohio, the adoption of the new common core curriculum with new online-only exams and the new Resident Educator program providing for extended mentoring of new teachers.

All of those items require a massive financial commitment by the state for processes that should be clearly considered to be non-classroom expenditures.  They are heavy on new computer equipment (both classroom and district-wide network) and on personnel to create, enact, and oversee the various processes.

And it seems we might have the unlikeliest of allies: House Finance Committee Chair….and leader of the statewide school funding discussions, Ron Amstutz.

Said Amstutz of Kasich’s job-sharing plans:

“I think we will see more of it, but I don’t think it’s a silver bullet and I don’t think it should be mandated,” he said. “Academic success is what is critical and that isn’t as simple as having more resources in the classroom.”

Consider that last sentence from Amstutz again — he certainly seems more thoughtful about the process than does our first-term governor, don’t you think?

Interestingly enough, the Toledo Blade published an article today about term limits that contains some interesting information about why we might be inclined to trust Amstutz over Kasich on this issue.  In a word: experience.  Amstutz’s relevant experience puts Kasich to shame on this issue.

Rep. Ron Amstutz (R., Wooster), chairman of the powerful House Finance and Appropriations Committee, is dean of post-term limits legislating with 32 consecutive years in the General Assembly. He already had 20 years under his belt when the first impact of term limits was felt in 2000. Voters then sent him to the Senate and then back to the House in 2009.

He has been presiding over a series of hearings to educate committee members when it comes to school funding. In this age of term limits, many lawmakers were not here when the Ohio Supreme Court repeatedly held the state’s method of funding K-12 education unconstitutional.

No, we haven’t jumped on the Ron Amstutz bandwagon, but the potential firestorm between the Kasich Administration and the experienced Amstutz’s House Finance Committee should provide for some interesting stories over the next year (Kasich is planning to roll out school funding in his 2013 budget — legislation that will first have to pass through House Finance).

Let us know — what key components would you like to see addressed in the next school funding model?