Ohio Policy

By now it should be no surprise to anyone that Ohio is the midst of a financial crisis, and that schools will undoubtedly feel the brunt of this. School districts around the state must cope with the end of federal stimulus money as well as tangible personal-property tax replacement payments to schools. With hearings about the budget (HB153) underway, Terry testified before the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education last week to offer support for certain reform provisions, while also urging the Ohio Legislature to think bigger and bolder in some areas.

Terry offered support for:

  • The creation of Innovation Schools/ Zones, which would allow schools to achieve cost savings and greater efficiencies by allowing them to seek waivers from some state laws.
  • The expansion of school choice. He praised the fact this budget would hold charter schools and their sponsors more accountable for their performance, but cautions that many details still need to be worked out and refined.
  • The expansion of the EdChoice scholarship. He offered support for the proposed expansion of the voucher program, but called for the academic performance of private schools to be tracked and evaluated. As it currently
  • ...

Effective teachers are the most valuable education asset that Ohio (or any state) has. Statistics don't lie when it comes to their impact on children's learning. Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, who recently testified before a joint hearing of the Ohio House and Senate education committees, reports that "having a high-quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background." Similarly, a weak teacher can blight a child's prospects.

Given how powerfully teachers can alter students' life trajectories, it is not only prudent but imperative to push reforms that enable education leaders to distinguish effective teachers from ineffective ones. With a fair and rigorous system that measures gradations of teacher effectiveness - not just binary ratings such as "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory" - school systems can reward their ablest instructors and put them in the classrooms where they are most needed, target support to teachers who need it and weed out those who are not a good fit for the profession. For Ohio, where low-income and minority children reach proficiency at far lower rates than their wealthier peers, the stakes are enormous.

But the evaluation system isn't working nearly as well as it...

Ohio is in the midst of its biennial budget debate and there has been much angst and ink spilled about a proposal in the budget bill (HB 153) to create a ???parent trigger??? for the state's truly woeful schools. The proposal has triggered front page new stories, strongly worded editorials against the idea, and public testimony in House hearings on the budget dismissing the idea as another assault on public schools.

The bill would allow parents to petition a school district to force reforms in a school that, for at least three consecutive years, has been ranked in the lowest 5 percent of all district-operated schools statewide based on its performance index score (which is a measure of student achievement across all grades and subjects). Parents would be allowed to file a petition requesting the district to do one of the following:

  1. Reopen the failing school as a community school,
  2. Replace at least 70 percent of the school's personnel,
  3. Contract with another school district or a nonprofit or for-profit entity with a record of effectiveness to operate the school,
  4. Turn operation of the school over to the state Department of Education, or
  5. Any other restructuring
  6. ...

With the GOP dominating so many state capitols and governors' mansions, it shouldn't come as a surprise that legislation aimed at expanding school choice is on the rise. In Ohio, the most prominent (but certainly not the only) bill would expand the state's existing voucher program and also create two additional voucher/scholarship programs ? one aimed toward special education students, and the other aimed toward students attending schools anywhere across the state and meeting a fairly generous income requirement. Terry wrote about HB 136 last week, specifically pondering whether targeting scholarship to families making up to $100,000 annually was prudent during trying fiscal times, and whether the state should provide scholarships to families already paying private school tuition. ?

And as HB 136 is up for debate in the coming weeks, we'd predict that the accountability provisions within the bill may also be hotly contested. Should private schools receiving voucher students be subject to testing/accountability?? Does this infringe on their rights? What would this look like in practice? Why should we pump taxpayer dollars into schools without commensurate accountability requirements? (A 2009 Fordham report suggested a sliding-scale approach: as a private school enrolls more voucher students,...

Ohioans, for the most part, understand that strong teachers and good schools are a critical investment in our children's and our state's future. Consider that in 2010, the state invested more than $18.3 billion in K-12 public education ??? roughly $2,078 for every adult living in the Buckeye State.

In fact, school funding in Ohio has steadily increased over the past three decades. Just since 1991, when the first DeRolph lawsuit was filed, per-pupil revenue for Ohio's public schools has risen 60 percent (even accounting for inflation). After decades of steady growth in spending on its schools Ohio now faces a funding cliff. Education in the state is facing cuts of at least $1.3 billion.

The state's schools are being asked to do more with less. How do we do this smartly, without damaging children, especially our neediest? To answer this question it is prudent to look at the data. Where are we making gains? Where are we falling flat? Where do the investments pay off? Where don't they?

The Akron Beacon Journal jumped into the debate with a recent news story and follow-up editorial using NAEP test scores (commonly referred to as the Nation's...

The 2010 census numbers came out this month and ???shrinkage??? is the defining term for Ohio's cities. Cleveland shrunk by 17 percent over the last decade and fell to 396,815 residents, a 100-year low. Cincinnati lost 10 percent of its population and is down to 297,000 residents, also a 100-year low. Toledo contracted by nine percent and now has a population of 287,208. The only large city in the state to grow was Columbus and it now has a population of 787,000.

Fordham's hometown of Dayton lost 15 percent of its population to reach a 90-year low. Since 1970 the city of Dayton has lost almost half of its citizens. Those left behind are increasingly poor. Fully a third of the city's residents had incomes below the poverty level in 2008, more than double the Ohio average. More than 80 percent of the city's school children are deemed economically disadvantaged.??

As Dayton continues to contract and get poorer its public schools struggle to educate the children left behind. The school district was rated Academic Watch by the state in 2009-10 and it met only one of the state's 26...

Today marks history for the Buckeye State, its low-income children, and its failing schools, as well as for the dozens if not hundreds of education reform advocates who've been pushing for the last decade for Teach For America - Ohio.

Today legislation passed in both the Ohio House (HB 21) and Senate (SB 81) that paves the way for a Teach For America site (specifically, allowing TFA to place teachers across grades and not just in shortage areas) and also makes it easier for alums of the program to get certified here to teach.

The Ohio House passed HB 21 by a 64-32 vote margin, with five Democrats crossing the aisle to support it. Kudos to Reps. Celeste, Patmon, Sykes, Budish, and Salozzi for joining Democrats across the country ? including President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ? in supporting the program.

In the Senate, the bill was amended slightly so as to require Teach For America to partner with a local university (which is required in many other TFA states but which adds undo requirements to the program). It passed by a margin of 25-8. Kudos to Sen. Turner, Wilson, and Kearney to cross...

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