Friday, May 27, 2005

Deceptive Headlines

So you looked at the newspaper rack while down at Sparkle today?  Did you notice the big headline on the Record Courier?  Official: Dark day for public education.  What could this terrible, awful, end of the world news be?  Two hundred fifteen districts will have their state funding frozen for two years.  [cue dire music]  OH THE AWFUL HORROR!

The whole article is actually a pretty good piece on the ups and possible downs to the education side of the state budget currently being considered in the State House (which I astutely blogged about yesterday, pay attention here folks).  You can read the article here if its still available online.  I’ll be quoting from my trusty newsprint copy.  There’s nothing like the stains that ink leaves on your fingers, ahh sweet newsprint.

School advocates


say they are concerned that a version of the two-year state budget under consideration in the GOP-led Ohio Senate

evil right wing conservatives that only want to kill your children, ok, that’s enough introduction

provides no additional funds over this year for more than one-third of the school districts in the state

after a majority of districts have seen their funding cut in the last two years, this is not a bad thing at all

School advocates

democrats (sorry, I can’t help myself)

say they’re also worried that the proposed two-year, $51.2 billion spending plan that would take effect July 1 doesn’t give more money to public schools in metropolitan areas for higher business costs and doesn’t reimburse school longer for revenue they would have received from businesses taxes that would be phased out.

trust me, that might make sense later.

don’t hold your breath though.

“We’re gravely concerned,” said Fred Pausch, director of legislative affairs for the Ohio School Boards Association


which represents boards of education across the state.  “This is a dark day for public education right now,” Pausch said.

We have a headline!  Seriously though, its the end of the world because metropolitan schools won’t get a few tens of thousands of dollars because it costs more to drive there?  Have we forgotten the concept of getting a levy passed?  It seems that Mr. Pausch would like the state to make up for some districts’ inability to get a levy passed for operating funds.  That’s not entirely the state’s responsibility, the large part of the responsibility lays within the district itself.

“The bottom line is they’re not investing enough money in education,” said Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, which represents about 20,000 teachers in local unions around the state.

democrat, but you likely guessed that already.  I’ve often wondered, how much money is enough money to invest in education?  No one has ever actually given a number as to how much that is.  Its always “we need more” or “its not enough”.  How much is enough?  The problem is that if someone answers that question with a definite number, someone will actually give it to them, and they’ll have nothing to complain about.

The Senate’s version of the state budget, which is pending in the Senate Finance Committee, freezes state funding for 215 school districts at this year’s levels in both budget years. 

you might want to strap yourselves in for this next statement

No school district would receive a cut from this year’s funding levels, under the Senate’s budget version.

those dirty Republicans are taking more money away…wait…what did he say?  No cuts at all?  Well they must be cutting something, being evil and all.  No?  What am I going to complain about now? 

According to documents, the Senate’s version of the budget would pump $6.2 billion into state aid to schools in the budget’s first year – a 2.2 percent increase from current funding levels.

Mind if I spew my coffee all over my keyboard in disbelief?  could it be that Republicans are actually spending money on education?  This shakes my entire world-view.  (and for you folks wondering, this is called sarcasm)

The Senate’s version of the budget would spend $6.3 billion on state aid to schools in the plan’s second year, a 1.8 percent bump over the first year, state documents show.

Feel free to pass out now.  Yes folks, that means they’re putting even more money into the system.  Don’t forget the mantra though, its not enough, its not enough, we need more, we need more, feed the beast, me hungry.

Public schools with large numbers of poor children would also get more aid.


The Senate’s version of the budget would focus resources on the most impoverished schools


by providing $896 million in poverty-based assistance over the two-year budget period, state documents show.

impressive.  Directed help, a novel concept.  Give money to the districts that really need it.  wonder where they came up with that one?

The Senate’s version fo the budget, if passed, also would implement a new method of funding schools by using a “building blocks” approach that funds specific amounts for teacher salaries, professional development, student intervention and other items instead of the current method of using statistical formulas.

Statistical formulas are a horrible way to disperse funds in a school system, because of the very nature of such systems.  Need is not always confined to one area, and the formulas cannot account for these fluctuations.  Anything would be better, and hopefully this idea will work.

“It makes it pretty clear,” said state Sen. Joy Padgett, a Coshocton Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.

Padgett, who also sits on the finance committee, said the Senate’s budget version better directs resources in student intervention.

“It makes the intervention model more targeted,” Padgett said.

And that’s the basic problem with formulas.  Students don’t always adhere to their proscribed form of conduct.  Stinking free will.

At  least one Senate Democrat, however, said the plan doesn’t go far enough for schools.

“Teachers continue to be laid off under this budget and programs continue to get slashed,” said state Sen. Charlie Wilson, a St. Clairsville Democrat who sits on the Senate Finance Committee.

Charlie’s a nice guy actually, I met him a few years back.  Voted against him though, he did have that whole Democrat thing going against him.  Its true, teacher do continue to be laid off.  Programs are continuing to be cut.  Can we expect the state (read, you and me) be expected to pay for the failure of other school districts when it comes to the passage of operating and replacement levies?  There comes a point when the shifting of wealth (and lack of it) has to stop.

School advocates

ok, one last time.  Democrats.

criticized the Senate’s budget plan, saying it eliminates the so-called “cost of doing business factor,” money provided to schools in urban areas to pay for a higher cost of labor.

Is it just me or is this really stretching for more money? 

“That was the public-policy decision made by the state legislature a while ago, now they just kind of abandoned that philosophy,” The OSBA’s Pausch said.  “There are a lot of districts out there that won’t see any growth.  They’re not going to see any growth on their state dollars.”

After seeing the local school board fight tooth and nail to get their levy passed, I feel little pity for these school districts right now.  Have them make their case to their own taxpayers and see if this kind of thing really holds water.

“The biggest problem with (the Senate version of the budget) is it plants some time bombs down the road, the most destructive being the loss of business property taxes by local districts,” the OFT’s Mooney said.

How many times have we heard that the State Supreme Court has demanded that state schools not be funded based on property taxes?  It is an unfair way to be funded (according to the Court).  That’s exactly what this budget is setting forth, a different way to be funded not based on property taxes (which are being phased out completely to help businesses supposedly).

Under the Senate version of the budget, tangible personal property taxes levied on business machinery and equipment, inventory, furniture and fixtures would be phased out over four years.

-by Jeff Ortega, Record-Courier capital bureau

Well there you have it.  The article itself is a nice little conglomerate of information, which I have kindly sifted for you.  You want real numbers for Windham?  The Record Courier has kindly provided some of them.  In the first year of the new budget (if passed, of course), Windham would receive a 6.3 percent increase in funding.  In the second year of the new budget, the increase would be a total of 6.7 percent.  Windham presently recieves $6,382 per student (this includes all kinds of funding, a list too long to put here).  In the first year, that will increase $402 per student to $6,784 per.  In the second year, there would be a bump of $122 to the tune of $6,906 per student.  On that basis alone, this is a pretty good budget for us.


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