EDUCATION Ohio, Pa. don't fund schools equitably, report says
Ohio ranks with the top nine states in an 'improving teacher quality' category.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Although Pennsylvania and Ohio have adequate funding for schools, their systems for distributing them equitably are abysmal, says the "Outlook 2003 State of the States" report released by Education Week magazine.
The periodical gives both states a B for adequacy of resources, while both get a D- for equity.
Only two states -- Illinois and North Dakota -- were graded worse (F) in the equity category.
"Students attending public schools in Ohio cities are more likely than their classmates in wealthier suburban schools to be taught by a teacher without the proper credentials," says the report, released today, which focuses on the "teacher gap."
As for Pennsylvania: "High-poverty school districts ... have a greater share than wealthier districts of teachers who lack full certification," the report says.
Ohio's method of funding education -- through a combination of state and local taxes -- has taken a beating over the past several years as the state Supreme Court has ruled three times since 1997, most recently last month, that the method is unconstitutional because it relies too much on local property taxes and must be overhauled.
Although it hasn't been the subject of a lawsuit, Pennsylvania's system for funding education also relies heavily on local property taxes.
"This really confirms what the court has been saying," said William L. Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & amp; Adequacy of School Funding.
"Our particular concern is not that we take away from districts that have appropriate programs. Our strategy has always been to level up from the bottom," Phillis continued. "That report is saying that people at the bottom are in pretty bad shape."
State Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, said a problem has been that "state legislators continue to ignore the Supreme Court." The state must find a way to guarantee equal opportunities and chances for success to all children, Hagan said.
"It really has to have equity and balance," he said. "Just because, by an accident of birth, a child is born in a wealthy district, he has more opportunities to succeed than a child born in a poor district."
Evidence of the discrepancy in learning opportunities is apparent when comparing districts like Canfield with schools in rural areas like Carroll County, said State Rep. John A. Boccieri of New Middletown, D-61st.
"We have adequate resources in the state of Ohio. How we distribute those funds is quite flawed and based on an antiquated method," he said. "Children's education is determined by the ZIP code in which they live, and that is just not fair."
Data on teachers
Data used for the report shows that 2 percent of teachers in Pennsylvania's high-poverty districts are not fully certified, compared with one-quarter of a percent in all other districts.
"As many as 35 percent of secondary students in high-poverty schools are taught by teachers without a minor in the subject," the report continues.
Overall in Pennsylvania, 13 percent of elementary school pupils, 41 percent of middle school pupils and 25 percent of high school students are taught by a teacher with neither a major nor certification in the subject.
In Ohio, 31 percent of elementary school pupils, 72 percent of middle school pupils and 30 percent of high school students are taught by a teacher with neither a major nor certification in the subject.
But Ohio has implemented measures toward higher quality among teachers and rated in the top nine of states in the "improving teacher quality" category, earning a B. Only South Carolina received a higher grade (B+).
Pennsylvania did not fare well in the category, receiving a D+ for improving teacher quality. The report said Pennsylvania is evaluating data about teacher quality, and that, by next school year, the state will require teacher-candidates in preparation programs to maintain grade point averages of 3.0 or higher.
Among Ohio's teacher quality issues mentioned in the report are:
* The state has started reporting teacher credentials by district for parents in local report cards; it also reports building-level report cards to parents.
* The Governor's Commission on Teaching Success task force is to make suggestions for teacher recruitment, preparation, support, retention and professional development.
* An "Entry Year Program" requires beginning teachers to work with a two-year temporary license and pass a performance assessment before earning a professional teaching license; a one-year mentoring requirement for these teachers is to begin this year.
* Permanent certification is being phased out and, by next year, all teachers will be required to renew licenses every five years based on professional development.
* The state has a "diversity-training partnership" grant program that pairs local school districts with universities and colleges.