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The Suburbanite
  • Governor's school spending plan puts focus on students

  • Funding the student, not the district, is the theme of Governor John Kasich’s education funding plan for the next two years.

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  • Funding the student, not the district, is the theme of Governor John Kasich’s education funding plan for the next two years.
    Kasich presented his long-anticipated plan, “Achievement Everywhere,” to superintendents and charter school leaders at a Buckeye Association of School Administrators meeting Thursday.
    He said the plan is “not about operating schools, but about educating our boys and girls.”
    The $15.1 billion, two-year education plan would increase state aid to schools by 6 percent over the next two years (July 1 to June 2015).
    It includes an expansion of the state’s voucher program, which provides public money for students to attend private schools.
    Kasich stressed that his plan will level the playing field between the state’s richest and poorest districts.
    Kasich’s Director for 21st Century Education, Richard Ross, said the plan is designed to drive dollars to the classroom and called it “an education improvement plan, not a funding plan.”
    If approved by the Ohio General Assembly, school districts would not experience any drop in funding in the next two years (July 1 to June 2015). However, Ross said, that level of funding would not be sustainable and would have to eventually decline.
    Ross said the state has doubled the funds going to schools over the last 12 years, yet achievement has remained flat.
    Barbara Mattei-Smith, the governor’s policy director for education, addressed how the state would change funding disparities between poor and wealthy districts.
    The state requires every district to levy a minimum 20 mills of local property taxes.
    Depending on a district’s average property values, that could mean anywhere from $800 for poor urban districts to $14,000 per student for wealthy areas.
    The new education plan would include a formula that would bring all schools up to a tax base level of a district with $250,000 in property value per pupil. Kasich advisors claim the figure — $250,000 — is at the 96th percentile of districts statewide.
    The state, however, would not put limits on how much a district can seek from voters above the 20 mills.
    FUNDING STUDENTS
    Under the plan, the state would work with local schools to identify the classroom needs of students and teachers and allocate funds based on those needs.
    Additional funds would be provided to support students with disabilities. For students whose disabilities require more costly support, the state plans an “exceptional costs pool.” That fund, currently at $10 million, would be increased to 100 million, an be used to cover students with greater needs.
    English language learners would be allocated more money for the first three years that a student attends school in the United States. Continuing support would be offered if family members are not yet speaking English proficiently.
    School districts with large populations of disadvantaged students, but limited access to early childhood programs, would receive additional resources due to the special services the students often require in early grades. Kasich said these funds would be helpful in making sure these students meet Ohio’s new third-grade reading requirements.
    Page 2 of 3 - Districts would also receive $50 per student to help identify gifted students and support their unique learning styles and abilities.
    An expanded voucher program would provide private-school tuition this fall to any kindergarten student with a household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The program would be extended to first-graders in the fall of 2014. Vouchers would be worth up to $4,250 a year, and could be used at participating private schools that parents choose.
    The state would allocate $8.5 million for vouchers the first year, and $17 million the next.
    Another portion of the plan, Kasich calls “Freedom to Succeed,” addresses mandates he said should no longer be required such as a minimum number of school days.
    Kasich’s “Straight A Fund” would disperse one-time grants for innovative ideas. The governor hopes that part of his plan weans districts from dependence on state aid, and allows the education budget to decrease in the next two-year plan.
    “The innovation fund is designed to lead to change and cost savings,” he said, explaining why it’s a one-time grant and not sustained funds.
    The $300 million fund would support initiatives aimed at improving teaching and learning, and driving more funding to the classroom.
    Kasich’s plan also allocates $90 million to pay for tutoring and intervention services schools are required to provide to students reading below grade level under the newly enacted third-grade reading proficiency targets.
    LOCAL SUPERINTENDENT WEIGHS IN
    Canton City Schools Superintendent Adrian Allison said he will watch the legislative process run its course before making a final judgment on Kasich’s plan.
    He said it’s contradictory for the state to promise more money to poor urban districts, while at the same time creating more charter school vouchers for students living within those districts.
    “(Increasing the voucher system) is a direct attack on urban education,” Allison said Thursday. “It’s a way to hurt urban education.”
    Allison said that removing certain mandates on the public schools is a good idea.
    He also favors changing the required days per school year to required hours.
    “When you have that you can arrange the school day and year to get done what we need to get done,” he explained.
    State Senator Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, announced Wednesday that he will introduce his own school funding bill.
    Under Sawyer’s plan, according to a news release, local contribution to districts would be phased down so that by 2021, “no existing expense millage would be levied above 20 mills,” shifting more of the financial burden to the state.
    It also would require the state to determine the components of a high quality education and the cost, and ensure the districts have the necessary funds. This would be re-evaluated every six years.
    Page 3 of 3 - Highlights of Gov. Kasich’s two-year education funding plan
    • $1.2 billion in total new funds over the biennium for primary and secondary education.
    • Funding formula assuring every school district that levies property taxes of $20 for every $1,000 of assessed value will generate same as district with $250,000 per-pupil property tax base.
    • Targeted assistance providing additional funds to districts based partly on income of residents.
    • Additional funds to schools to help educate and support students with disabilities.  
    • Special funds for the first three years a student attends school in the United States to help students not yet proficient in English.
    • Additional funds for school districts with large populations of disadvantaged students but limited access to early childhood programs.
    • Special funds to allow extra steps by schools to help children living in poverty achieve.
    • Option for schools to set aside certain mandates as long as the health and safety prioritized.
    Source: Associated Press