While Gov. Mike DeWine's budget was rolled out Friday, the K-12 stuff wasn't nearly as exciting as some other areas of the budget. That's because the heavy lifting on K-12 funding will be done next week by state Reps. Cupp and Patterson in what's the most highly anticipated school funding reform plan since mine in 2009.
But that doesn't mean there wasn't interesting stuff in DeWine's budget. I'll go through a few of them.
$300 million a year more for wraparound services
This is a good effort to try to bring more mental health and other services to poor students, though as I've written, it didn't help that DeWine misled the public by calling this a $550 million increase. Every district would get at least $25,000, even if the district has only a handful of poor students. And the funding could get as high as about $250 a student, which could make a difference. However, given Cupp and Patterson's work, my concern would be if this is a substitute for more funding for schools overall. Kind of like this: "there's not enough money to do a school funding overhaul, so let's try a couple programs for poor kids instead." Our students deserve the investment the state simply hasn't made for 30 years. And every kid deserves that commitment. Yesterday.
$30 million for high performing charter schools
Again, this may be a worthwhile effort. However, DeWine will be taking this out of the state's lottery fund, forcing cuts in lottery money headed to school districts. At the end of this two-year budget, nearly $50 million will be headed to charters from the state's lottery fund, which was supposed to go strictly to school districts. Again, we need to be creating a charter school market that rewards success. But taking it out of funds voters created for school districts seems counterproductive.
Another big increase for vouchers
DeWine is continuing the misguided increases to the EdChoice, income-based voucher. EdChoice has actually been shown to harm student achievement. Why he would continue to pour about $24 million or so into this program that has hurt the kids who take the vouchers makes no sense to me.
Early childhood education funding flat funded
I was shocked with this, actually. Ohio's struggles with early childhood education, given how even conservative states like Oklahoma have created Universal Pre-K has been stunning, actually. There has been talk of doing a ballot initiative or designating new money for early childhood education initiatives. So I hope DeWine is just waiting for those options to shake out. If not, this is truly disappointing.
Significantly more charter school oversight
DeWine increased the budget for ODE's charter oversight office from $2.5 million to $7 million. That's good. Still not enough to oversee an $889 million a year program. But better. It also seems to fly in the face of the "House Bill 2 has fixed everything so give us more money" mantra coming recently from charter school proponents. If HB 2 fixed everything, why do we need to nearly triple the sector's oversight?
Overall, this is what I'm calling the "meh" budget. Yes, there are some small benefits. And a few districts may see significant increases to address the challenges of their most needy students. But overall, it's not enough money to overcome the needs of poor students in every district. Meanwhile, charters more than double their money from lottery funds, vouchers research has shown will hurt student achievement continue their march toward $1 billion a year and early childhood education is ignored.