Friday, November 14, 2014

Ohio Schools: Cuts and Unfunding Mandates and Petitions

The Ohio State Board of Education has had quite the week. After quietly starting the process of slashing state requirements for elementary specials, they got a quick lesson in social media-- this post alone blew up to 12K views in just a few days.

For the most complete coverage of the actual cuts and changes, I recommend this post over at Plunderbund, a site that specializes in Ohio School Stuff. I think the analyses there of the larger problem is spot on as well.

The cutting or requirements for elementary schools to hire a full complement of arts, phys ed, counseling, nurse, librarian, support staff is not about some perverse desire to diminish education for Ohio's children. It's about trying to give local districts the tools to help manage the damaging funding cuts that the state has inflicted on them. This approach not coincidentally has the effect of forcing local school districts to be the bad guys, because they would be the ones to say, "We're getting rid of the art teacher."

The people of Ohio have a month to raise a fuss. They can send emails, letters, and sign petitions like this one at, and they should. But they should also get on the phone to the state capital and make some noise about state funding of education.

Look at it this way. If local districts were fully funded, it would barely matter that the state BOE cut the requirement to hire certain elementary staff. Local districts would simply shrug and say, "Well, why the heck would we want to cut those things" and life would go on.

A. J. Wagner, the board member who led the walkout earlier this week, reportedly reached out to protestors by letter, saying essentially that he wanted to remove the pressure of unfunded mandates from local districts, an could anybody see a way to do that. Well, there are two ways to fix an unfunded mandate problem. You can either get rid the mandate (as the board proposes) or you can keep the mandate and actually fund it! That would be my message to pass along to Wagner (not that he can fix that, but it would be a message for him to pass on to the legislature).

The pressure is not coming from some burning urge to diminish the educational lives of children. The pressure is coming from an inability to pay for everything that the school district should be providing because the governor's administration has pursued a program of starving the beast. I can't pretend to know what is in Kasich's heart, but I do know that if you don't provide public schools with the money to do a good job, and they then start to crack and fail under the funding pressure, it's a lot easier to make your case that failing public schools need to be rescued by Noble Charter Operators.

So keeping the pressure on, the noise loud, and the fight going is worthwhile. But it's also worthwhile to keep an eye on the problem behind the problem.


  1. The problem is that funding is controlled by the legislature and not the state bd of ed.