Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 6:16 PM
Ohio school districts that don't improve how they teach low-income students and students with disabilities could have to turn part of their state funding over to organizations that might do a better job under a provision in Gov. John Kasich's budget bill.
The bill would also expand Ohio's "parent trigger" law from Columbus to districts throughout the state. The parent trigger law allows a majority of parents at a low-performing public school to vote to turn the school into a charter school or replace most of the school's staff.
Both provisions could bring huge changes to Ohio schools, but many details about how they would work are still emerging.
"As people learn more about this, there're going to be more and more questions, " said Piet van Lier of liberal think thank Policy Matters Ohio.
And weeks after superintendents applauded Kasich at an event unveiling the broad details of his school funding plan, enthusiasm from some leaders is fading.
"The cautious optimism when it originally came out is now going away," said Canton City school district Superintendent Adrian Allison. "Now I'm starting to get the real story about what's happening."
The budget bill released yesterday also fleshes out more of the details of the changes to school funding and other areas the Kasich administration has already discussed.
Those changes include a new way of distributing state dollars among public schools, expanding private-school voucher programs and changing rules about the length of the school year and student:teacher ratios.
A provision in the 4,206-page budget bill calls for schools that fail to show "consistent progress" in the performance of students from low-income families, students with disabilites, students learning English or gifted students to turn over part of their state funding to another organization that has shown it is able to educate those students.
Kasich's new school funding formula gives schools state funding based in part on how many students in certain subgroups -- low-income students, students with disabilites, and so on -- it educates. That funding -- which totals more than $1 billion a year statewide-- is what could be reallocated from low-performing school to other organizations.
Here's how that might work:
Under Kasich's budget, a district like Cleveland would get nearly $60 million dollars from the state in order to educate low-income students. If Cleveland doesn't show that it's doing a better job of educating those students, it could have to send that money to a private organization or another school district that has shown it can do better.
Kasich education advisor Barbara Mattei-Smith said in a written statement that the provision is not a "loss of funds."
"It is a requirement that districts redirect funds through a partnership with someone who has a proven track record of better serving students," she said.
The state Board of Education would likely set the rules about when and how schools would be subject to this provision, Mattei-Smith said. The state board is developing new school report cards that include letter-grades on schools' progress in educating students in certain demographic groups.
Canton City school districts superintendent Adrian Allison called the proposed change "disappointing."
"You have less money to work with kids and get them where they need to go," he said.
The provision is similar to the requirement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act that low-performing schools pay for outside tutoring services for students. That program was funded by federal funds, not state dollars. It was ended last year in the face of allegations of fraud and wrongdoing.
Ohio is one of a handful of states that already have parent trigger laws. But Kasich's budget bill would expand Ohio's from applying just to Columbus schools to schools in the bottom five percent of schools statewide for three years in a row.
[module align="right" width="half" type="pull-quote"]"We think that's a good thing that parents are getting more involed in their schools and have high expectations."
--Dick Ross, Director, Office of 21st Century Education[/module]
(You might be familiar with the concept of parent triggers from the 2012 movie Won't Back Down.)
As written, the parent trigger law would not apply to the Cleveland school district.
Rep. Mike Foley (D, Cleveland) called the parent trigger expansion a "potentially radical change."
In response to Foley's questions at a House committee meeting today, Kasich education advisor Dick Ross noted the parent trigger would apply to a relatively small number of schools.
"The parent trigger provides an opportunity for parents to be more involved in their schools," Ross said. "We think that's a good thing that parents are getting more involed in their schools and have high expectations."