Themes emerge for Kasich reform of school funding



Columbus Dispatch


Gov. John Kasich soon will become the fourth- consecutive Ohio governor to propose sweeping changes for financing public schools and improving student performance.

We’ve had the “successful schools,” “building blocks,” and “evidence-based” funding plans since the Ohio S upreme Court in 1997 found the state’s school-funding system unconstitutional. By early February, Kasich will be next to fix the system, and presumably give the plan a catchy title.

The administration won’t discuss specifics, but Kasich has hinted at what his plan might look like and several themes emerged, including:

Allowing funding to follow the students if they wind up at nontraditional schools.

Pushing more money into the classroom and away from bureaucracy.

Providing additional funds for students considered more expensive to educate, such as those with special needs or from poor families.

Focusing on student outcomes and less on prescribing resources or requirements such as class size.

Rewarding schools and teachers for success.

“For a very long time, Ohio has not been very good about getting money into instruction, instead funding overhead. We want to get away from this mind-set of inputs and pay more attention to outcomes. The focus has to be on the boys and girls,” said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols.

Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow in education at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, said, “Ohio is right in the center of a group of ... states that have said from the governor on down that education is the answer to our future and we’re going to change things.”

Hanushek, who last month testified before a joint House-Senate committee and advocated greater use of incentives for improving student performance, said he hasn’t seen Kasich’s plan but expects the governor to push broad reforms.

“States are working hard to straighten out their finances,” he said. “It’s important because there has been such pressure on state funding. With budget pressures, people are more worried about seeing that their money is being spent effectively.”

Many also are loosening rules and regulations to allow schools flexibility to focus on what works best for their students.

“It’s impossible to run all the schools from Columbus. We’ve done that with lots of categorical spending and rules, but it just doesn’t work,” Hanushek added.

The next two-year state budget should be on much firmer footing than the last one, where schools suffered significant cuts. But schools are still unlikely to see a substantial increase in state aid.

Roughly $20 billion is spent every year on education in Ohio, when counting state, local, lottery and federal funds.

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