Ohio Education Gadfly
Volume 1, Number 34
May 30, 2007
Global Warming (to School Vouchers)
Grand Schemes, Grim News, and a Little Grousing
Terry Ryan / May 16, 2007
The decisive recent levy defeat (by a margin of 58 to 42 percent) was indisputably a blow to the Dayton Public Schools (DPS), bringing grim fiscal realities that will force district leaders to scale back certain programs, curtail some activities and furlough a number of teachers and staff--much of this in less than two months.
Downsizing an organization is never easy and laying off scores of employees is truly wrenching. It’s harder still in the public sector, where contractual obligations, political pressures and community needs whipsaw executives seeking to make “rational” choices and do the “right thing”. These won’t be easy weeks for DPS leaders. Yet if they move thoughtfully and strategically, in the medium and long term Dayton could benefit educationally from the short-term agony. The challenge is to use the fiscal stress as leverage to focus on key priorities and rethink some long-time practices and assumptions.
That’s begun to happen in other cities. Consider Denver, where tight budgets, outdated procedures, restrictive contracts and a student exodus to other (especially charter) schools have prompted superintendent Michael Bennet (see here) and every single member of the school board to approach the community with an exciting future vision of a radically different kind of school system--one that would embrace choice, differentiate schools, empower principals, decentralize authority, create new career paths for teachers and foster greater transparency and accountability across the system. It would also reach out to high
May 16, 2007
Though school vouchers have met with a chilly reception by some in Ohio, other countries have warmed up to them quite nicely--for good reason, too. There’s mounting evidence that they’re having a considerable impact on student outcomes. Consider Columbia (yes, Columbia). During the 1990s, its government instituted a voucher program to increase access to high schools, providing over 125,000 students (via a lottery) with about half the cost of tuition at a private school. Researchers have found that those in the program were 15 to 20 percent more likely to finish high school, had lower rates of grade repetition, earned higher scores on academic assessments, and were more likely to sit for college entrance exams. In Sweden, education reforms in the early 1990s resulted in greater choice for parents and students via a government-funded voucher program. The result has been expanded schooling options and some compelling proof that competition and choice raise standards for everyone. As senators in Ohio debate the future of the state’s fledgling voucher program--as well as a new special education voucher initiative, they might want to look abroad for a little guidance and some compelling evidence for offering Ohio’s parents more choices and opportunities for their children’s education.
“Free to Choose, and Learn,” The Economist, May 3, 2007.
A piece of the pie
The spring legislative session is heating up, with the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee now deliberating on the House version of the state budget bill (see here). (Though it remains to be seen whether the Senate can maintain the unwonted bipartisan accord achieved the by House.) As the committee kicked-off hearings on the bill, it quickly became apparent that legislators have no shortage of ideas when it comes to how and where dollars should be spent to improve the education system. Senator Gary Cates (R-West Chester) is seeking a funding guarantee for rapidly growing districts; Senator Joy Padgett (R-Coshocton) wants dollars allocated to programs encouraging students to pursue postsecondary education (like the Post Secondary Educational Option); and Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) is seeking to offer incentives for schools that implement the Ohio Core curriculum in advance of the 2014 deadline. None of them bad ideas per se (though not all good, either), but as this finite educational funding pie gets divvied up, more than a couple folks are bound to be staring at an empty plate.
Giving it to us straight
Few people deliver grim news as well as Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust and a leading child advocate in the field of education. Last week, she spoke at a packed event in Columbus (presented by the Columbus Metropolitan Club and sponsored by KidsOhio.org). The state’s leading
May 16, 2007
The Fordham Institute seeks talented individuals to fill two positions in Ohio: an Editor/Researcher to be based in either Dayton or Columbus; and a Research and Data Analyst for the Dayton office. Both must be interested in education policy and reform, tireless workers, and in general accord with Fordham's principles. We especially appreciate a literate mind and a sense of humor. For more information about the Editor/Researcher position, click here. For a complete description of the Research and Data Analyst opportunity, click here.
May 16, 2007
The May 4th charter school board governance training, held in Columbus, drew almost 100 board members and charter school stakeholders from across the state. Participants left with vital information about effective school governance and the myriad regulations, guidelines and statutes affecting Ohio’s charter schools--all presented by national and state experts. Event materials and presentations are available here.
May 16, 2007
Alas, in our last issue our announcement of official accord between President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton during National Charter Week was just wishful thinking. While both certainly are and have been supportive of charter schools, Senator Clinton did not introduce a resolution in the Senate praising them.