National 'No Labels' Group Comes to Ohio; More on Paying For Schools

The worry over the crumbling dam at Buckeye Lake in central Ohio may not be over, but Gov. John Kasich says the debate over what will be done about it is. The warmer weather is already bringing out the orange barrels, and there are more to come with the release of the Ohio Department of Transportation's schedule of projects this week. President Barack Obama was back in Ohio this week – speaking to a sold out crowd at the City Club of Cleveland. Fans of the state budget can keep on watching – the Senate has decided to allow live cameras into the Finance Committee hearings in that chamber once the budget gets there. And the most exciting press conference/rally so far this year was this week – but it was exciting largely because it wasn’t real. More than a hundred extras gathered on the Statehouse lawn shoot a scene from the new John Travolta movie “I Am Wrath”.

2010 was a chaotic year in politics - it began with the signing of the hotly debated Affordable Care Act, which critics call Obamacare, and the controversial US Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, which said that political spending limits on corporations, unions and other groups were unconstitutional. As the year went on, Americans struggled in a challenging economy, listened to fiery debates over immigration and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saw some Tea Party candidates rise and some implode, and then voted overwhelmingly for Republicans in the mid-term elections, just two years after Democrats had won the White House as the GOP left it. It was against this background of frustration and anger expressed by voters that a group of nationally known, politically-connected activists and current and former politicians came together with the idea of fixing government. The group is called No Labels, and it seeks to bring in Republicans, Democrats and independents with the goal of moving beyond those party labels, and enact changes and reforms on the national level. One of its founders was in Ohio this week to meet with state lawmakers about what can be done at the state level. He is David Walker, the former US Comptroller General, who ran as a Republican for Lt. Gov. of Connecticut last year.

The state budget is still being discussed in the House, and time is growing short – the goal was to pass it over to the Senate by the middle of April, to give that chamber time to debate it so it could be signed and in place by July 1. There’s been a lot of testimony about the school funding formula, which Gov. John Kasich says will require districts that have higher property tax wealth and higher incomes to shoulder more of their schools’ tax burden, so that the state has more to give to poorer districts that need more funding. It’s widely suspected that the House will make changes in that formula. But school funding is a very complicated, confusing topic. Two experts continue their discussion about it. Dr. Howard Fleeter is an economist and a longtime researcher on school funding, and is now a consultant with the Education Tax Policy Institute. Stephen Dyer is a former reporter and state representative who’s now the Education Policy Fellow the progressive leaning think tank Innovation Ohio.

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