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The Year of Education Reform
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Ohio runs on a two-year budget, but that doesnâ€™t mean off years are slow.
Governor Kasich crammed in several education initiatives into his mid-cycle budget. Several other education bills passed the legislature.
Among the new programs is the third grade-reading guarantee. Ohio third graders must be proficient readers, or they could be held back.
There are new evaluations for teachers. New report cards for schools. Voucher programs expanded. Thereâ€™s a new voucher program for special needs students.
And the state is watching charter schools more closely.
I honestly believe most of its long overdue.
Michael Sawyers is the acting state schools chief. He says itâ€™s been a good ten years since significant education reform.
â€œYes, thereâ€™s a lot happening all at once but if weâ€™re going to create chaos we might as well create total chaos and then put the pieces and parts together to create the system thatâ€™s necessary to better meet the needs of kids.â€
Sawyers says looking ahead to 2013, educators will spend much of the year implementing the programs passed in 2012. Plus Ohio will start using the Common Core exams for students, exams shared with 48 other states to create a common testing system.
But â€“ the biggest thing to look forward to in the New Year will be a promised new formula to fund schools. Governor John Kasich has been hinting at what his plan might look like.
Iâ€™ve got a school-funding proposal coming out for early childhood all the way through the 12th grade. We have a huge and significant in higher ed. 50 % of the dollars that go to colleges and universities are only going to them if they graduate students and not enroll them.
But if schools are hoping for a big influx of cash, they might be disappointed.
Republican leader of the House Education committee Gerald Stebelton, says he hasnâ€™t been privy to details of the governorâ€™s new funding formula, but he has a few guesses at what it might include.
â€œI would guess that youâ€™ll see more emphasis on performance by the school districts,” Stebelton says.
“I would think that knowing the way Governor Kasich thinks youâ€™ll be seeing more emphasis on operational efficiencies and tying funding to districts that try to improve their operational efficiencies. I think there will be some connection to funding following the child.
The ranking Democrat on the House Education committee, Nickie Antonio, worries the new funding formula will do little to fundamentally change the way schools are funded: where they rely heavily on local property taxesâ€“ a system that leads to better schools in wealthier neighborhoods and struggling schools in poorer, urban and rural settings.
Part of coming up with a funding formula is coming up with a fair funding formula.
Kasich says his school funding formula will be independent of his spring budget. . But Antonio will be keeping an eye on the budget for anything that might affect schools anyway.
â€œWeâ€™ll be very watchful, mindful of the fact that the budget is a large, large document with many, many moving parts.â€
In particular, Antonio will be on the lookout for any thing that target teachers unions. . Union members have been watching Michigan and other states that recently passed right-to-work laws and wondering if Ohio might not be next.
The stateâ€™s public universities are also coping with changes to the way theyâ€™re funded by the state. Half of their support will be based on how many students they graduate. Jim Petro, the outgoing chancellor of the Board of Regents says students earning degrees is the whole point of universities.
Youâ€™ve kind of wasted your money if you donâ€™t get a degree, and frankly since we subsidize public universities pretty heavily weâ€™ve wasted our money.
Petro will retire at the end of January. Acting schoolsâ€™ superintendent Michael Sawyers will at some point be replaced by a full time schools chief. That leaves one more thing to look for in the New Year: new leadership to manage Ohioâ€™s education policy from Kindergarten through college.