Inside ODE's budget cuts

After being dragged over the coals by Governor Ted Strickland in his State of the State Address, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has identified $101.2 million worth of budget cuts (see here) to help the governor pare $733 million from state government spending.

The $733 million target could be just the beginning if Ohio's economy and the state's tax take don't improve, and as many as 2,700 jobs could be eliminated throughout state government (see here). Estimates of the potential deficit run as much as $1.9 billion for the two-year budget, although the governor has said he would dip into the state's $1 billion rainy day fund to lessen the impact if more cuts are needed (see here).

The education department will save $29 million each year by returning unspent money to the General Revenue Fund (GRF) and releasing prior year encumbrances. The remaining savings will come from the department's operating budget. Cuts were made to a variety of programs and services, though no reductions were made to basic aid to schools or early childhood education programs.

Ohio's 60 educational service centers saw their budgets cut by 9.6 percent, or $5 million, in each fiscal year. Efforts to boost student achievement in reading also took a hit. Next year's allocation for the state's literacy training for teachers was reduced by 4.8 percent ($501,000). The grant program that funds literacy prevention and intervention services in school-improvement status buildings took a $582,000 hit.

The funding to subsidize the application fee for teachers seeking certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and reward teachers who achieve certification was chopped by $2 million (or roughly 20 percent) per year-but this cut probably won't hurt much in practice. Ohio offers up to $2,200 per applicant for fees and provides stipends of $2,500 per year and $1,000 per year to NBPTS-certified teachers. Last fiscal year, 361 teachers utilized the application dollars, 1,908 received the $2,500 stipend, and 337 received the $1,000 stipend-for a total of about $5.9 million.

Programs providing continued education beyond high school will have to tighten their belts. For fiscal year 2009, ODE cut $402,000 (4.8 percent) of the funding for early-college high schools, $1.9 million (9.9 percent) from the allocation for post-secondary adult career-technical education, and $567,000 (10 percent) from the budget for supplemental post-secondary enrollment participation.

The department cut $3 million per year from its $77 million budget to support the statewide testing system. The state may well be able to carry out its assessments despite this 3.8 percent cut, but Ohio's students and schools could still be affected: ODE is permitted to spend funds left in this line item to develop end-of-course exams-a key recommendation in the 2006 Achieve and McKinsey & Co. report, Creating a World-class Education System in Ohio (see here).

The department also cut 16 percent, or $505,000, of next year's allocation to train educators in the use of value-added data-the same year that value-added data will begin affecting school ratings on the Local Report Card.

The department realized smaller savings by trimming earmarks-many of which do not make clear their connection to the department's mission or to improving student achievement. GRF line item 200-433 sets aside $100,000 per year for the Contemporary Arts Center for "art education for children and a children's museum;" GRF line item 200-431 earmarks $250,000 annually "to support Amer-I-Can," but attaches no purpose or funding parameters to the money; and GRF line item 200-514 provides $40,000 per year for "statewide coordination of the activities of the Ohio Young Farmers." ODE eliminated the Contemporary Arts Center's funding in both fiscal years and trimmed Amer-I-Can's and Ohio Young Farmers' by about 10 percent each year.

More By Author