Governor’s plan restructures state
school funding formula
“Forget everything you know about the Foundation Formula.” These were the words of Pari Sabety, Director of Ohio’s Office of Budget and Management, when she presented Governor Strickland’s proposed biennium budget for K-12 Education earlier this month. The governor’s proposal has been described as an Evidence-Based Model that would replace the state’s current funding system, which has been ruled unconstitutional.
What does this Evidence-Based Model look like? Basically, it identifies components needed for a 21st century education, assigns a cost to these components, creates accountability measures, and restructures school finance to eliminate “phantom revenue” and allow growth in district resources with local voter approval.
The Ohio Evidence-Based Model (OEBM) has merit. Arguably, these reforms should help the Oakwood School realize our vision to “educate ethical decision-makers who achieve their life goals, take responsible risks, and contribute to the greater good of the world.” At the very least, the proposed reforms strive to align curriculum, instruction, and assessment with what we know about best practice in teaching and learning. Consider the following:
• Rigorous Learning Environments –a comprehensive Pre-K-12 system that integrates core subjects with career readiness, creative expression, and problem-solving skills through innovative teaching formats.
• Expanded Learning Opportunities - all-day kindergarten; phase-in of 20 additional learning days over a 10-year period; establish community service, tutoring, and wellness programs; create statewide competitions in STEM and fine arts disciplines; add nurses, Wellness Coordinators, and a Family and Community Engagement Coordinator in each school building.
• High-Quality Educators – establish new standards for superintendents, treasurers and school business officials; establish a 4-year teacher residency program; create a career ladder for educators and change tenure eligibility requirements; provide additional time for teacher professional learning; establish an alternative licensure program for professionals who are not trained as educators.
• Ohio Students Measured Against the World - replace the Ohio Graduation Test with “ACT Plus” – a 4-part assessment that includes the ACT, end of course exams, required service learning project, and a completed senior project; revise assessments for grades 3-8.
The OEBM also has the potential to fall short of its goal to provide “effective funding to support 21st century reforms.” As laudable as it is to “define student needs and the resources needed to meet them,” defining necessary financial resources and providing necessary resources has proven to be problematic in Ohio. Consider the following:
In the Governor’s proposed model for K-12 Education, FY 2009 funding would be increased by $321.5 million in FY 2010 and by $603.5 million in FY 2011. As part of the plan, the OEBM includes a “guarantee” that no district would lose more than 2 percent of its FY2009 funding in the next biennium, and a “gain cap” that would limit growth in state funding for a district to 15 percent in FY 2010 and 16 percent in FY 2011. Oakwood is an example of a district on the (new) “guarantee.”
Like 42.8 percent other public school districts, Oakwood would not see an increase in our state funding in FY 2010. And, like 37 percent of Ohio public school districts, Oakwood’s state funding in FY 2011 would decrease by 2 percent. If the OEBM is enacted, Oakwood will be “guaranteed” no increase in our state foundation funds after FY 2009 and less in FY 2011 than we received in FY 2009. This is because in the newly proposed State Foundation Formula, Oakwood is categorized as a “very high median income and very low poverty” district. The formula does not appear to take into account that Oakwood’s student enrollment from 1997-2008 increased 22.5 percent. Only 34 of the 614 Ohio school districts saw a greater increase in enrollment during that period; only one other Montgomery County school district experienced more growth than Oakwood.
The proposed OEBM does eliminate the current problem of “phantom revenue” by decreasing the local district’s share from 23 mills to 20 mills and by creating a new type of levy – conversion levy – that would allow tax revenues to grow with increased property values.
The Oakwood Board of Education, administration and faculty will carefully examine the proposed OEBM. Given the cost of the proposed educational reforms and the new state-funding scenario outlined above, it appears that forgetting everything we know about the current Foundation Formula will be the easy part of transitioning to the new Biennium Budget.
League of Women Voters marks 89 years
America’s League of Women Voters (LWV) has observed its 89th birthday last month. The organization has for all nine decades been focused on strengthening the role of democracy in our nation. It has stressed the importance of good government via well-informed citizens keeping a close watch on their own local government units up to the national levels as well.
Locally, the Greater Dayton LWV unit serves both Montgomery and Greene Counties. Oakwood currently has 22 citizens (including some men like me) who see this organization’s devotion to thorough study of issues and regular monitoring of elected bodies as being essential to promoting good government. The LWV takes no official position on any issue such as environment, education, redistricting, etc. UNLESS it has first conducted a thorough study of the issue.
The overall commitment of LWV has been to keep democracy strong in 2009 and beyond. Doing this requires informed and active voters and the LWV has been able to give many women, and now men as well, the chance to enhance their own leadership and intellectual skills on behalf of their communities. During my years on the Oakwood Board of Education, we often had a regular LWV observer who monitored our meetings and asked good questions afterward so as to be able to fully understand.
Among the current national issues being followed by LWV are the following: 1. The Voting Rights Bill for the District of Columbia. 2. Concerns about the Federal Elections Commission being sure to follow the laws already in place. 3. Protecting American voters from having to violate federal law (National Voter Registration Act, 1993) and produce a “proof of citizenship” as Arizona tried to demand when voters used the national mail voter registrations application form. 4. Developing LWV Fact Sheets on Climate Change to help voters understand the pros and cons of various proposals.
If you want more information on the work of the LWV, I urge you to contact our local office by calling (937) 228-4041 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The organization welcomes new members - women and men - who are interested in promoting good democratic (small d) government at all levels.