Tuesday, December 12, 2017

State Rep. Misleads on School Funding. Again.

It's not every day that my state Rep. Anthony DeVitis, R-Green, sends me a letter. Bu I received two at my home yesterday -- both addressed rather personally to "Edcuator". So, curiosity caused me to open them. It was a letter explaining what great things he and his colleagues are doing for education in the state's biennial budget.

The budget passed in June, so I'm not sure why I'm getting this a week before Christmas, but whatever.

Anyway, there were four bullet points he mentioned. The first was the removal of a provision that would have forced teachers to shadow a business leader. The second was the elimination of a provision that would have put business leaders on school boards as non-voting members.

Let's pause there.

These two provisions were never in state law. These provisions were proposed by Gov. John Kasich -- the same party as Rep. DeVitis. So he's claiming a victory for stopping a provision proposed by the governor of his own party.


The final two are really misleading, though. He claims that the per-pupil funding for students was increased. Which is true. By $100. Now students get $6,000 per student. That's about $600 less than a simple inflationary increase would have provided over the last 10 years.

And one more thing: anytime an Ohio politician tells you the per pupil funding level increased, understand that means the only schools to which this means a definite increase in revenue is charter schools. That's because the small per pupil increase DeVitis touts will likely be offset by cuts to transportation or other areas. But charters never see cuts in those areas because they don't have to provide transportation. So what he's really trumpeting is an increase to funding for charter schools -- most of which do a worse job educating kids than the districts the kids leave -- and cost the state about twice as much per pupil to educate.

Yes, charters don't get local revenue, but they do get about twice as much per pupil funding from the state.

The fourth and final bullet point is that state foundation funding increased by $154 million in this school year and $120 million in the second year. What he and his colleagues never mention is that while the foundation line has increased, other lines that contributed significant revenue for kids in the past have been eliminated, or all but eliminated, by this legislature. For example, in 2009, the state provided about $1 billion in reimbursements for local tangible personal property tax payments the state eliminated in 2005. Now these schools get barely $100 million.

Also, in 2009, there was about $450 million coming annually to Ohio from State Fiscal Stabilization Funds that were intended to be replaced by state funding once the economy snapped back from the Great Recession. But DeVitis and his colleagues declined to replace that funding, effectively eliminating $450 million a year in education funding.

So overall funding since the Great Recession budget of 2009 is almost $900 million less over the course of this budget than districts received at the height of the Recession.

He continues to tout the benefits of HB 170 -- a bill he says (among other things) would "authorize" districts to set up a computer science and technology fund which he said could consist of district revenue, or privately raised money.

Notice the one pot of money he didn't mention? That's right. Not a single state dollar would be designated for these local tech funds. All the bill would do is let districts set aside some money and raise local money for a tech fund. But it's not important enough for the state to actually contribute even one penny.

Add this to the fact that the state is seriously considering spending at least $48 million on an unprecedented expansion of vouchers paid to private, mostly religious schools, and you start wondering if DeVitis and his colleagues are really concerned about the 1.6 million Ohio students in local public schools. If he's willing to drop $48 million or more on vouchers that we know hurt kids' education attainment, why won't he invest a single penny in establishing local tech funds?

I doubt that DeVitis did this independently. He's not on any education committees. I would assume all Republican members are sending around similar letters, trying desperately to explain away their terrible negligence of our state's kids.

But they're going to have to do better than that.

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