Republican State Rep Ryan Smith represents the “heart of Appalachia” in Gallia County.  In today’s House Finance and Appropriations Committee hearings he described himself as living in a “high poverty district that can’t get a levy through.”

During the hearings [video available here at 137:53] Smith asked a very moving question of Richard A. Ross, head the Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education.   He simply wanted to know what, if anything, this budget would do to help the severely underfunded schools in his district, schools that are laying off teachers and other vital staff and can’t afford to provide simple classes in art of music.   Ross compared his schools to the fast growing Olentangy school district in Central Ohio.

“Olentangy schools have German 1,2 and 3, Jewelry 1, Ceramics 1, Sculpture 1, Stage Craft 1, Concert Orchestra,”  said Smith.  “These are things that children of Appalachia don’t get exposed to.”

“I’m not asking for synchronized swimming or a swimming pool or anything extra. I’m not asking for violin lessons or cello lessons.  What I want for is my kids is music. And art… just give them a basic education,” pleaded Smith.

State Rep Smith also tells the story of Symmes Valley School District where the Superintendent had to layoff his board secretary, transportation director and curriculum director and is now doing all of those jobs himself.  Another school district in Smith’s area has lost 40 teachers and the rest have had no raises in four years.

Smith ends by asking Ross asking if there is any “special sauce” in this budget that will help superintendents just provided a basic education to the kids in his district?

Ross does not have a good answer for Smith, and instead attempts to relay the “benefits” of Kasich’s money-follows-the-child model of school funding.

Ross notes that Symmes Valley and other less-wealthy Appalachian school districts  likely get more in per-pupil funding from the state than Olentangy.   And while true, this is hardly a meaningful or useful response to the question given that Olentangy is flush with cash and hiring teachers for jewelry making classes, while Symmes Valley can’t even afford a part time art teacher.

Ross claims he doesn’t have the exact funding numbers in front of him.  We looked them up:  in Kasich’s proposed budget the rich Olentangy district will get a 331.58% funding increase in 2014 and another 23.45% increase in 2015.   Symmes Valley, the poor Appalachian district, will get a 0% increase in both years.    This after getting cut nearly $600,000 in Kasich’s first budget according to

Ross then offers Smith and his school officials another option: apply for a Straight A Fund grant and hire a teacher to share across districts.

Under the Straight A program, schools can apply for money to fund a project that will end up reducing costs long term.  For example, increasing class sizes on one teacher to allow another to be laid off.  Or making an investment in technology that can ultimately replace teachers.

Again, this is not a solution to Smith’s problem.   If a school doesn’t already have a music or art teacher, hiring one is going to increase costs over the long term, even if they share that teacher with multiple districts.  The Straight A Fund is a useless option for schools that want to expand opportunities for their kids into areas they can’t currently afford to fund.   But it seems to be the stock answer Kasich’s people are using when anyone questions their budget.

Ross also tells them to use “Digital Opportunities” but jokingly admits he wouldn’t want to be the one who had to teach online music classes.

Ross seems to think the idea of poverty-stricken Appalachian kids learning the tuba from a computer program is quite hilarious.    I think it’s downright disgraceful.

What’s next? Online gym class? Online recess? Online detention and lunch?

Kasich told school superintendents that poor schools would be getting more money and rich schools would be getting less.  That was a lie.

Kasich and his education advisers know full well that their budget does nothing to help provide equal education opportunities for all of Ohio’s children and they honestly don’t care.   And when confronted by a very specific and sad example, they make jokes instead of providing answers.


  • anastasiap

    “Money following the child” is crap — the most expensive way to fund education by in effect making each child his own school system and de-consolidating to an atomic degree. Nothing could be more costly. As a taxpayer whose property taxes are likely to skyrocket to 15 or 20 times the income tax cut I’d be getting under the Kasich plan, I am sick of it. Kasich has not even attempted to address the underlying issue that caused this disparity, the inequity of funding our schools so heavily with property taxes. Hey … wasn’t there something about that being unconstitutional? Hey Taxin’ John Kasich, could you POSSIBLY be a less effective governor?

  • wetsu

    Avon, Avon Lake; are these not affluent schools? Yet, they too are big winners in the Taxin’ John sweepstakes. Findlay and Lima Shawnee get millions? Fostoria I can see, but, there is little or no coherent method to this madness.

  • Marlowe53

    This makes me so angry. I hope it makes Ryan Smith angry enough to speak out against Kasich and become an Independent because, in truth, few Republicans really care about children. They’re too busy trying to end public school funding so that they can all start charter school franchises and retire on the public dime that they’re always complaining about other people doing.


    When you vote against your own interest, this is what you get.

  • dmoore2222

    This school funding joke will surely make companies flock to Ohio along with the increased number of services to be taxed. In typical republican fashion, give the companies a break but let their employees pay higher sales taxes and only hope the schools their children attend aren’t starved for funding.

  • Kasich is using his educational budget scheme to give Ohio school districts the “tools” to implement SB5 initiatives.

  • Natasha

    This isn’t hard to figure out.

    Ohio Republican Governor John-Boy Ka$$uck. Ohio Republican Auditor Yost and a hoist of the GOP appartchik (Jai Chabria – types) live in Delaware County so naturally all that can be sent ‘home’ by the GOP boys and girls from Delaware County and its school districts is sent there.

    I’m gonna guess that there is a strong correlation to funding levels from the Ohio GOP with voting results in the November presidential election.. Those areas that went for the reelection of Obama get cut, or nothing at all. Also, the less non-white fat guys in the demographic of a district must certainly lower its funding from the Ohio GOP. After all, Ka$$uck doesn’t need, those “people” and the Ohio GOP will make sure that things are difficult for them for anything like public education, voting and funding their local governments from Ohio’s sales tax receipts..

    Even a home-school dropout or the “goat” of a charter school arithmetic class could figure out this Ka$$suck retribution scheme!

  • Bob M

    “Smith ends by asking Ross asking if there is any “special sauce” in this budget”

    What is that? I like being a member of the GOP until I can’t bring home the bacon to my district? Hoping that by being a loyal follower maybe he can bring home something special for being a lap dog and not putting his people and the state before his party (and screw the rest of the state that is in the same boat?)

    Maybe State Rep Ryan Smith should reexamine the party he is a member of or maybe the folks in Gallia County should reexamine who they send to the state house.

  • dmoore2222

    Let him have his retribution. We’ll have ours in 2014.

  • Not as long as the good people of Gallia County keep voting Republican. They went 61% for Romney and 54% for Mandel. And the conservative echo chamber is no where stronger than in corporate boardrooms and the back woods of the country. As long as they think tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs and that Kasich doesn’t want to raise their taxes, nothing will change.

  • William Hazlett

    Unfortunately, things just don’t change. I am reminded of a young girl back in the 90’s asking why her poor district in SE Ohio did not deserve the same type of school building and education similar to the rich suburban districts around the state. She got no reply.

    Back in the emergency loan fund days, superintendents were told to reduce staff, even if their high school was already down to 4 teachers: one for each major subject.
    DeRolph has come and gone; the Supreme Court wimped out; and the R’s and the D’s continue the political games while the kids suffer.

  • Amanda Davis Ritchey

    I will NEVER understand why SE Ohio votes every election GOP when this is exactly what they think of them! I get it you think “liberals” just want gays running everything and no guns and non-white people taking your house but WAKE UP. These rich guys DO NOT care about one of us.

  • Amanda Davis Ritchey

    I really don’t get that. You’ll see my post above- they just think voting democrat makes them less “manly” and guns will start disappearing. They’re doing it to themselves.

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