Timing of funding panel calls its impact into question

Alongside putting in place Governor Strickland’s “evidence-based” model of school funding, House Bill 1 – the state’s biennial budget – called for an advisory panel to issue “recommendations for revisions to the educational adequacy components of the school funding model,” among a slew of other charges.

Appointments have been made to the panel, and the group’s work will get underway soon. There has been much chatter around Capitol Square about who is on the council (a who’s who of players from the state’s political and education establishment) and what they’ll ultimately recommend (odds are they’ll call for directing more money to schools, see here). But such chatter, and the council itself, may be moot because of political timing.

The Ohio School Funding Advisory Council’s recommendations are due December 1, 2010, four weeks after the gubernatorial election. If Kasich prevails, it seems unlikely that he’ll heed the advice of a panel convened by the previous administration to improve its flagship policy initiative (in similar fashion, Strickland largely ignored the Taft-era Achieve/McKinsey report on Ohio’s education system, here, when he assumed office).

There is reason to believe that Governor Strickland won’t embrace the panel’s recommendations either, especially if they call for more resources to be poured into the system. Whoever takes the oath of office in January 2011 will assume a multi-billion dollar budget deficit (though the exact amount of that deficit is up for debate). A second-term Governor Strickland could have his hands full trying to plug the budget hole and keep the state afloat; he may not be keen on revisiting his school funding model.

And unlike 2009, he won’t be in the position of needing to keep teacher unions and other campaign-contributing education special interests happy. State law would prohibit him from seeking a third-term as governor; and Strickland, who would be 73-years old at the end of his second term and who has already served a long and distinguished career in Congress, isn’t likely to seek another elected office.

The Ohio School Funding Advisory Council’s report will find its place on the bookshelves of politicos and policy makers but in the end may not impact much in the way of Ohio school funding policy.

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