A new $250 million grant program for Ohio schools that generated minimal discussion when inserted into the state’s 2014-15 budget last summer but that’s attracted maximum buzz from districts this fall promises to deliver a double whammy of benefits.
If it lives up to its mission, the new Straight A Fund will enhance student achievement while cutting school district costs. Improving Ohio’s marks on those two critically important subjects would bring smiles to students, teachers, administrators, parents and taxpayers alike.
As it rolls out this month, we applaud those state legislators and education leaders who crafted the program and those districts – including most all school systems in the Mahoning Valley — that have speedily and enthusiastically jumped on its bandwagon.
Its popularity is beyond dispute. By the time the application deadline hit last week, there were more expressions of intent to compete than school districts in Ohio. In the Mahoning Valley, Youngstown City Schools seeks funds to study districtwide transportation to enhance enrollment – and thereby significantly increase state funding. In Trumbull County, 19 school districts seek support to study an innovative countywide reading program. In Columbiana County, a consortium of districts wants to improve STEM education.
As one can see, many of the proposals seek cost savings through service sharing with other nearby school districts. Such consolidation promotes fiscal responsibility through economies of scale, a move we’ve advocated for years. They also respond to local educational needs and benefit from the expertise of local educational leaders.
Richard Ross, superintendent of Ohio schools, called Straight A the “single most-important element for change” in Gov. John Kasich’s school-funding formula. We share his enthusiasm and hope it achieves its intended outcomes. In its early stages at least, the Straight A Fund has earned an undisputable A+ for effort and potential.