Paolo DeMaria, who rather infamously made the claim in 2012 (video part 8, starting at 7:30) that the way Ohio's charter schools are funded doesn't impact school district bottom lines because school districts have both fully state funded kids and fully locally funded kids, is the state's new Superintendent of Public Instruction.
As anyone who looks at a school finance report knows, all Ohio public school kids receive both local and state revenue. Don't believe me? Ask you local school district whether your kid is fully state funded or fully locally funded. You'll get a crazy look (or crickets on the phone).
The impact charter funding has on local districts is real and significant. Which is why legislators now understand that they have to fix the way Ohio funds its charter schools so it doesn't have as much of an adverse impact on kids not in charters.
Will DeMaria go along with this recent commitment? Or will he continuously, erroneously suggest that kids who go to charters don't impact districts financially? In 2012, his word was gospel. Now, after several years of new thinking on the issue and partnering across ideological lines, DeMaria's out of step.
DeMaria also is of the opinion that more money doesn't improve student performance. This is a classic fallacy employed by many in the free market reform movement. The problem is it compares dollars spent with increases in test scores, claiming that if test scores don't go up at the same rate as the spending, then clearly spending more doesn't matter.
However, dollars are different from test scores (for a detailed explanation of this difference, read this peer-reviewed article). So, for example, if a district spends 200% more today than it did 10 years ago, but test scores are stagnant, that doesn't mean anything. Why? Because the test scores can only go so high, especially given how closely tied they are to poverty. The article I mentioned above explained that according to DeMaria's calculus, test scores would have to be nearly twice as high as the maximum a student can receive in order to equal the same percentage increase as the funding.
In other words, you won't ever see the same percentage increase in test scores that you do in funding. Because they're not the same types of numbers.
DeMaria knows his stuff. There's no question about that. He has the respect of the education policy wonks in Columbus. However, as you can see with his previously cherry picked (or made up) use of data, he has a nasty habit of juicing the ball, depending on his audience.
And while that means he survives well in public service, that's concerning as a matter of public policy.
In his new role as State Superintendent, it will be interesting to see if he manipulates data to further agendas, or whether he'll use his considerable knowledge to make an honest assessment of the state's school system. Given the department's recent history of glossing over data to further agendas, this is a legitimate concern.
I'm hoping for the best.
But I've seen his worst.