It appears (again) that Gov. Kasich is playing favorites by giving exclusive briefings on the plan this week to those whom he likes -- Charter School operators and Superintendents. No treasurers, school board members, principals, teachers, parents, students will get the exclusive peek.
But, thanks to today's social media, it is likely that some details will emerge from Thursday afternoon's meeting with Superintendents. Which may explain why Kasich is scheduled to do a social media rollout soon after.
I don't know what's going to be in the plan. And in a lot of ways, it won't really matter until we see the district-by-district simulations. However, there are a few things Kasich must to in order for this plan to be truly great.
1) It MUST reduce the need for property tax levies in this state. Without property tax relief, our local taxpayers are going to be asked again and again to raise their own taxes. This Kasich Tax Burden resulted in a record $1.1 billion put before voters since his last budget cut $1.8 billion in education funding. If there is no property tax relief (or at least a commitment to some in the near future), it will be just another unconstitutional school funding system. And truth be told, nothing else really matters.
2) It MUST address Charter School funding. Brick and mortar Charter Schools are now the most expensive schools in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Education's own analysis. Meanwhile, only 23 of the 300+ Charters in this state rate above the state average on the Performance Index Score.
Charter Schools have a role to play in our public education system. No question. However, the over-investment in a widely failing program makes little sense, especially after a year in which education funding was cut by $1.8 billion, but money moving to Charters grew at a faster rate than any year in nearly a decade. They should be paid for what it costs to educate kids at the Charter School, not at the kid's district of residence. The state could actually increase funding to good Charters, provide them with much-needed capital money, and provide upwards of 2 mills in property tax relief to the residents of Ohio -- about $60 per $100,000 home.
3) It MUST fund elements that actually will improve student outcomes. There are a few elements of education that peer-reviewed research has determined actually helps student outcomes. Let's fund and incentivize those, not things like merit pay, which has very little evidence it improves outcomes. Investing in ideas that are driven by ideology rather than the scientific method will lead to failed programs and our kids falling further behind.
4) It MUST not punish districts, but incentivize them to improve. Using a carrot rather than a heavy handed stick is a better approach. Forcing districts to have to meet performance goals in order to receive a fraction of what they received in the 2010-2011 school year is NOT an incentive. It is a punishment.
5) It MUST compare funding levels to those received prior to the $1.8 billion cut. Establishing the funding levels after the cut as the new normal would be a wildly dishonest comparison. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled four times that relying too much on property taxes to pay for schools is unconstitutional. What is clear is that cutting $1.8 billion, as the Governor and General Assembly did last budget cycle, made the overreliance worse, not better. If there is no substantial property tax relief in Kasich's plan, then the plan will simply continue the problems enunciated more than a decade ago.
6) It MUST not substantially alter the charge off. The charge off is the amount of money the state says each district can raise locally. It's what allows the state to provide less money than the formula says the district needs because, the state reasons, if the locals can raise a certain amount, the state should only be responsible for what the locals can't raise. However, the only way to move money around to different districts without new money being put into the plan is through a charge-off manipulation. This manipulation could lead to serious hardships for districts that can't raise much local revenue, and even force them into consolidation. Not only that, but changing the charge-off does NOT make the system more constitutional. It just makes some districts more happy than others.I have not been encouraged by things I've been hearing out of Columbus about the Governor's plan, especially on property tax relief. I am encouraged by the talk around early childhood education, though. I also like giving locals some measure of autonomy, though I want the state to be careful not to allow a Balkanization of our education system -- creating great extremes of education excellence and failure -- by giving away too much oversight. It is a state, not local, responsibility to fund education. I would hope Superintendents remember that if they are offered greater autonomy in exchange for far less state support.
We'll see what happens tomorrow. Hold on to your hats.