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The Suburbanite
  • Education reform hearing comes to Springfield

  • The legislative process came home to Springfield Township as 60 witnesses signed up to testify before the Ohio House Education Finance Subcommittee.

     

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  • The legislative process came home to Springfield Township as 60 witnesses signed up to testify before the Ohio House Education Finance Subcommittee.
    Chaired by State Representative Stephen Dyer, the subcommittee listened to residents from across Northeast Ohio responding to Gov. Ted Strickland’s education reform plan.
    Gov. Strickland’s education representative, Dr. John Stanford, said the education reform plan is a massive undertaking which would lengthen the school year, recommend all-day kindergarten and strive to provide a fair and equitable education for each of Ohio’s children. Stanford said charter schools are not working and that legislation would require schools to have superintendents and a treasurer.
    A vocal constituency of alternative, charter, community and e-virtual schools testified before the subcommittee.
    “I know there a lot of issues and a lot of passions,” said Dyer.
     He pointed out the alternative schools are the only schools fully funded by the state. Meanwhile, public schools are partially funded by the state and local property owners.
    Dyer used Springfield Local School as an example. The state claims it takes $9 million to operate Springfield Schools. However, the state does not fund Springfield Local with $9 million.
    The state gives a fraction while the burden falls on the property owner. Yet $557,000 goes to charter schools from the state with no parent subsidy. Springfield had a shortfall of $500,000 and was forced to close Lakemore Elementary, Dyer pointed out.
    “The state is making a choice,” said Dyer. “The state is saying charter schools are more important.”
    This brought groans from school choice advocates.
    But Dyer continued. “Springfield is not alone in this. Money that the public schools need goes to charter schools. There’s got to be a better way.”
    Several moms from Cleveland community schools testified that their children excelled in alternative schools. They claimed Cleveland schools were not safe and they would move before they would re-admit their children into Cleveland Public Schools.
    “It was interesting to hear from the various stakeholders representing many different interest,” said Coventry Superintendent Rusty Chaboudy. “The charter schools were well represented and really dominated the majority of the hearing. I hope the committee does not put all of the public schools in the same light as those talked about by a number of people from the Cleveland area. I was disappointed that there was not more opportunity to discuss other aspects of the budget than just charter school concerns but the number of people that signed into testify were mainly from Cleveland area charter schools.”
    I have a great deal of respect for Stephen Dyer,” said Manchester Superintendent Sam Reynolds. “He is concerned about public education and has demonstrated his concern through his continuous efforts to find a solution to the state’s funding of public schools. He knows the issues and devotes countless hours in listening to his constituents. The Monday, March 2, meeting was another example of Mr. Dyer’s efforts to serve the public.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Manchester could see a 2 percent reduction in funding. Reynolds testified before the committee, expressing his concerns for Manchester. “We have reviewed the Governor’s biennium budget and the school-funding reform plan. The initiative has the potential to improve learning for Ohio’s students. It is critical that the transition from the present funding and operating standards to the reform plan is revised to ensure the success of Governor Strickland’s proposal. First, there are actually two proposed budgets. The first is the Adapted Evidence-Based Model FY 2010-2011, and the second is the Fully Funded Evidence-Based Model FY 2010-2011. For 36 percent of the schools in Ohio, the Adapted Evidence-Based Model represents a 0 percent increase in FY 2010 and a 1-or-2 percent decrease in FY 2011. We request that you consider a cost of living increase to all schools for each of the years and additional funds incrementally for required mandates.”
    Reynolds pointed out to the subcommittee that the reform measures would be phased in over the next eight to 10 years. “In developing the budget for the next two years, it is important that the districts are notified of the initiatives that will be required. For example, if full-day kindergarten, reduction of class size at the kindergarten through three grade levels, and building nurse wellness coordinators are required in this biennium, school funding should include these costs in addition to the cost of living.”
    “We were all very appreciative to Rep. Dyer and the members of the Finance Committee for the opportunity to attend a regional meeting at Springfield High School,” said Sharon Dahlman, the gifted coordinator at Green Local Schools. “The hearings were conducted in a very professional manner. It was obvious that the 60 educators, parents, and students who elected to speak and present their comments and concerns about Gov. Strickland's proposed school budget were heard and their concerns will be addressed as revisions to the budget are made over the next few months.”
    Dahlman was concerned that gifted students would be overlooked by the education reform plan.
    She left encouraged, she said but is attentive to the needs of each of Ohio’s gifted students.
    “Those of us who attended the hearings to support the need for additional funding for programs for gifted students were encouraged by the questions of the committee regarding what monies would be needed to adequately fund gifted education. The proposed budget for gifted students appropriates only $25 per student for gifted services which is a cut for most districts from the existing funding which already does not adequately fund gifted programs across the state.     
    Therefore, state budget revisions are needed to assure gifted personnel and services are not reduced even further. Our hope is that the final budget will adequately fund the gifted programs that parents and educators throughout the state have worked so diligently over the years to design and implement. Only adequate funding from the state will assure that the needs of this special population of students are met to assure they receive an education that meets their needs.”