re: Sept. 24 Capital Matters

Carl Wick, a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, took issue with a Sept. 24 Capital Matters piece concerning state education budget cuts.

As chair of the Ohio Board of Education's budget committee I must dispute your characterization of the Board's 2010-2011 budget proposal. You stated, "It's hard to imagine other state agencies, whose directors are appointed by the governor, publicly promoting such pie-in-the-sky spending requests in the face of the state's current economic constraints and despite the governor's call for reduced spending."

We submitted three versions of the 2010-2011 budget. They are based on different state revenue scenarios. Two of the budgets, the 95 percent and 90 percent versions, were requested by both the governor and OBM (Office of Budget and Management). Both deal with two scenarios of decreased state revenue.

The third budget, called a flat-plus budget, calls for an increase of 2.2 percent in 2010 and 5.7 percent in 2011. This budget was crafted in accordance with our legislative mandate of identifying the budget necessary to adequately fund the state's portion of public education dollars.

You criticize the State Board for recommending any increase. The truth is that we originally crafted a completely flat budget with virtually no increase. What happened?

The Ohio Department of Taxation notified us that property values across the state will fall significantly. Lower property tax valuations have a major effect on the school funding formula. As valuations are reduced, the state must assume a larger share of school funding. Falling property values are largely a consequence of the recent housing crisis, which includes a high number of home foreclosures in Ohio. After recalculating the original flat-budget proposal to include the impact of falling property tax revenue on the foundation, the flat budget had to be adjusted. This resulted in a 2.2 percent and 5.7 percent budget increase.

There was also a small increase recommended that targeted all-day kindergarten funding and categorical funding such as LEP, special education preschool, and gifted education. The changes in gifted and LEP reflect the school funding subcommittee's work to move these categories to weighted per pupil funding and move gifted away from unit funding and separate LEP from poverty based assistance. Even the majority of increase in categorical funding was due to changes in foundation funding due to changes in valuation, not recommended spending increases.

You also characterized that our flat-plus budget was crafted apart from what the governor requested. This is not true. We had discussions with the governor's office throughout our budget effort. They knew and supported our submission of three budget versions. We were even thanked for our comprehensive approach to the budget recommendations.