Sunday, March 17, 2019

DeWine Misleads on Commitment to Poor Kids. It's Not Unusual.

This is why the public doesn't trust politicians.

During Gov. Mike DeWine's news conference about his biennial budget (up almost $20 billion from the budget I worked on in 2009), he made a big deal about providing $550 million for poverty fighting measures in his K-12 school plan. And he claimed it was new money.

I was skeptical when I heard this because it's never new money. But I digress.

Anyway, when I added up the total increase, it only reached $300 million additional in the second year of the budget. Where did this $550 million come from?

An old state budget trick.

See, in the 2019-2020 school year, DeWine provides $250 million more for poverty based aid in the form of wraparound and other services. So that's $250 million more. Then in the 2020-2021 school year, he adds in another $50 million. So at the end of the day, districts will have an additional $300 million two years form now to spend on these wraparound services.

However, because $250 million more was spent in 2019-2020 and $300 million was spent in 2020-2021, DeWine added those together to get his $550 million figure.

But when he made the claim, it sure seemed like he meant that in 2020-2021, districts would have an additional $550 million to serve poor kids.

Instead, it was $300 million, which Columbus Dispatch reporter Jim Siegel explained in a tweet during Friday's budget frenzy (after I pointed this discrepancy out on Twitter myself):
"Upon further review...Gov. DeWine's budget provides $300M more for schools over two years. We feel that is a more accurate number than the $550M figure. (It's a $250M increase in from 2019 to 2020, and then $50M more from 2020 to 2021.)"
This is a very misleading tactic Governors and Legislatures of both parties have used for years and it drives school district treasurers and superintendents nuts. Because they think that they're getting $550 million more by the second year of the budget, but it's only $300 million. So then they have to explain to their parents why they didn't get quite the windfall the Governor proclaimed, so those programs that could have helped their kids won't be able to happen.

I don't understand why state officials do this stuff. I really don't. It's not like $300 million is insignificant. Why fib on the $550 million claim? One would think that given Mr. DeWine's substantial government experience, he could have pushed back on his staff's claims here.

Oh well.

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