Grand Schemes, Grim News, and a Little Grousing
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 educators, business leaders, philanthropic organizations and policymakers turned out for a hot lunch and some chilling statistics about the state of our nation’s schools and the loss of our competitive edge in most grades and subject areas on international assessments. While acknowledging gains Ohio has made, she reminded parties of its staggering and persistent achievement gaps as evidence of work yet to be done. Balancing the bitter with the sweet, Ms. Haycock also shared stories of high performing schools serving poor and/or minority students throughout the country--along with some specific (and common-sense) steps that we need to take in Ohio. Perhaps most notable was her emphatic contention that all good schools--be they charter or district--need help and support replicating, just as bad schools must be closed (view her presentation here).
All about the adults
More money and less reform. That seems to be the thrust of the joint letter (see here) sent to Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) by the Ohio Education Association, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio Association of School Business Officials and Ohio School Boards Association. Concerned about several provisions of the House-passed budget bill, the foursome lobbied for, among other things:
- reinstating Governor Strickland’s harsh, even crippling, restrictions on state charters;
- restoring Parity Aid levels and the cost-of-doing-business component to district funding formulas;
- redirecting a $20 million appropriation for STEM schools to traditional schools; and
- rejecting outright a new special education voucher initiative.
Sadly, there’s precious little that relates to improving student achievement or expanding quality learning opportunities for children in the letter. This one’s all about the adults.