Ohio Gadfly Daily

Creating school funding policy is a delicate juggling act for state leaders. Contentious issues include deciding the responsibilities of local and state governments; determining efficient and fair ways to allocate funds; and ensuring economically friendly tax policies while raising sufficient revenue. Those seeking a firmer grasp of these topics should read a recent policy brief by Urban Institute researchers Matthew Chingos and Kristin Blagg that summarizes funding across the U.S. Three points in particular are worth highlighting.

First, the analysts show that state governments have increased their contributions to public education since the 1930s. When that decade began, local revenues almost fully financed U.S. schools, contributing more than 80 cents of every dollar. Since then an increasing percentage has come from states. In most states today, local and state contributions each constitute about 45 percent of school funding; the federal government supplies the rest. Yet these funding statistics, authoritative as they may be, arguably understate the true role of state governments in financing public education. In Ohio, for example, districts must levy a minimum 2 percent property tax in order to receive state funds. While these revenues are deemed “local,” they are integral to the state funding program and...

  1. We should probably start with the big ECOT news, I guess. Did you see that ECOT’s request to become a dropout recovery school was rejected by the Ohio Department of Education yesterday? No? How on earth did you miss that? Wonder what else was screaming off the headlines that took your attention? (Columbus Dispatch, 1/11/18) I jest once again, dear subscribers—even I couldn’t miss the big screaming headlines about ECOT’s fiscal/bond/sponsor woes. The school says it’s trying to remain open, but the Dispatch assures us here that its options are limited. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/11/18) Here’s a follow-up piece which states that central Ohio districts are “bracing” for the possible influx of hundreds of new students who might knock on their doors looking for an education should ECOT close due to lack of sponsor, as the good folks at the Dispatch assure us will probably/most likely/definitely gonna/can’t be soon enough happen (delete as appropriate). To the folks at Groveport City Schools, I might humbly suggest that “organized scrambling” is the order of most days; and to the folks at Columbus City Schools, I might humbly suggest that you needn’t brace all that hard. Our own Aaron Churchill is
  2. ...
Jessica Shopoff, M.Ed. and Chase Eskelsen, M.Ed.

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

There’s no doubt about it: We have a graduation rate problem in the United States. However, one of the biggest problems might not be what you think. It is not simply the hundreds of thousands of students failing to graduate on time or the hundreds of thousands of graduates who leave high school but still require remediation upon postsecondary enrollment. One of the most challenging yet least talked about problems is the four-year cohort graduation rate calculation itself.

While students are enrolled in a typical high school for four years—grades nine to twelve—the four-year cohort graduation rate calculation waits until the fourth year to account for their progress toward graduation. After four years, a student is stamped with a one-time designation of “graduated on time” or “did not graduate on time.”

That approach makes sense in a world in which students attend the same high school all four years. But in an increasing number of communities, that is no longer the world we live in. Especially with the advent of online schools and other...


In my book, state-level policymaking should be like good parenting. It should incentivize the behaviors you’re looking to inspire, grant autonomy (when your charges have earned it), and refrain from too much meddling or coddling. It should be transparent and honest, truthful about tradeoffs between short-term discomfort and long-term gain, and motivated by a clear compass rooted in what’s in the best interest of the kids’ wellbeing.

So why does Ohio’s latest softening on what we expect of our high schoolers bring to mind so many parallels to helicopter parenting? Allow me to explain. 

I first learned about helicopter parenting from my husband, a psychotherapist who counsels a number of adolescents and young adults. Years ago, he began noting (broadly, never in specifics) that many young people he counseled seemed to lack the fortitude and emotional resilience to overcome basic life obstacles. For instance, they might have a panic attack after earning a “C” on a paper, find themselves bedridden with depression if they didn’t get into their first-choice college, or wind up suicidal after a break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend.

A common thread among these clients was that their parents tended to “hover,” micromanaging their lives...

  1. Editors in Akron opined in favor of revamped state report cards for schools and districts, opining in favor of Fordham’s recent report on same along the way. (Akron Beacon Journal, 1/8/18) Our recommendations for changes to those report cards are enumerated in this news story on the topic as well, although I’m not too keen on being lumped in with the mass of “critics” in the headline. I rather like to think that we “came with solutions”, as a wise man recently wrote. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/10/18)
  2. Speaking of that wise man, Chad Aldis is quoted in this lengthy piece on charter school sponsor evaluation in Ohio and possible changes thereto which might be coming down the pike. Not surprisingly, school report cards are involved in the discussion. (Gongwer Ohio, 1/8/18)
  3. But the big news so far this week is regarding the state’s graduation requirements, as we’ve talked about briefly already. The state’s War on Knowing Stuff, as I like to call it, took another step forward when the state board of education voted 16-1 to extend the already-lowered grad requirements for the Class of 2018 to the Classes of 2019 and 2020. Chad is
  4. ...

The state board of education voted today to recommend that the General Assembly extend previously-relaxed graduation requirements for the class of 2018 to the classes of 2019 and 2020.

“Despite consistent feedback that too many Ohio high school graduates aren’t ready for credit bearing college courses and don’t possess the skills necessary to enter the workforce, the state board of education is once again recommending that the legislature walk back the requirements for high school graduation,” said Chad L. Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “What’s most disappointing is that this change is being recommended even though a significant majority of Ohio students have met the more rigorous graduation requirements.”

The most recent data released by the Ohio Department of Education projects that almost 77 percent of students in the class of 2018 are on track to meet graduation requirements.

Rather than earning a diploma by successfully passing end-of-course exams, achieving remediation-free scores on the ACT or SAT, or attaining an industry credential and demonstrating workforce skills, students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 would be able to graduate by completing two of nine tasks from a list which includes...


In case you missed it during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, Ohio recently announced how students can earn a new endorsement on their high school diplomas. It’s known as the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, and it’s intended to communicate to businesses that a student possesses the professional skills needed for employment.

To earn the seal, students must be deemed proficient[1] in fifteen professional skills, which include punctuality, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving. Proficiency is determined by three mentors, who must complete and sign the validation form. Students choose their own mentors, but they must include adults from at least two of three state-prescribed areas: school, work, and community. Examples include teachers, coaches, work supervisors, or faith-based leaders.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has a ton of information about the seal online, including this informational guide for teachers, students, and families. It’s in this document that ODE explains the rationale behind it: “Ohio businesses are seeking talented workers who have solid academic skills such as reading, writing and mathematics, as well as the professional skills required for success in the workplace.”

They are certainly correct about the importance of...


I don’t know about you, but for the most part, I shut down my social media and news apps over the winter holiday this year. As it turns out, tending to your neighbor’s chickens, building gingerbread houses, and riding sleds are all good strategies for recovering from the dumpster fire that was 2017. Meanwhile, some major education policy news in Ohio unfolded. Take a look at what you might have missed.

1) New Ohio right-to-work proposals were unveiled. Just before Christmas, Republican representatives John Becker and Craig Riedel introduced six Joint House Resolutions meant to scale back the power of public and private sector unions. Most notably, the proposals (HJR 7-12) would prohibit the automatic deduction of union dues from employee pay, forbid union fees from being spent for political purposes without permission from employees, and ban requirements imposed on contractors to pay workers the prevailing wage. Restrictions on dues would have enormous implications for teachers unions in Ohio. Agency fees are also a topic at the core of the U.S. Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME (though the proposed resolutions go beyond union dues).

Right-to-work legislation in Ohio is certainly nothing new: Rep. Becker has...

  1. Ahead of this week’s state board of education meeting, the Dispatch took a look at the issue of graduation requirements, sure to be a highlight of the agenda. If the one board member quoted here is anything to go by, extending the no-competency diploma pathways to the Classes of 2019 and 2020—two new fronts in the state’s War on Knowing Stuff—is a slam dunk. Fordham’s Chad Aldis tries to be the voice of reason here, but is buried at the bottom of the story as apparently befits someone who is one of the “select few” trying to turn back the tepid tide of this wretched war. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/6/18) At the same time as the board has been waging its War on Knowing Stuff (a.k.a. – tweaking graduation requirements in order to deemphasize mastery of academic things), members have been engaging in a larger conversation to define “the characteristics and attributes that a graduating senior should have in order to make a successful transition to adulthood.” You guessed it: knowing actual stuff is a minor part of what has been discussed thus far. (Columbus Dispatch, 1/7/18)
  2. I have been enjoying some classic game show episodes from my
  3. ...

One of the perils of working at a think tank, especially one like Fordham, which encourages provocative ideas and never shies away from a debate, is that it can be easy to anger or frustrate even your closest allies. That’s especially true in this polarized, fraught time we’re living in. I’m mindful of this dynamic and actively work to make the necessary policy arguments without being unnecessarily inflammatory. Alas, I’m not always successful.

In December, I received a thoughtful email from a friend and (often) ally regarding Fordham’s continued insistence that the alternative graduation requirements adopted last year amounted to a diploma giveaway and would hurt Ohio students in the long term. The person argued that our position was wrong and simply hadn’t kept up with conventional wisdom or the latest research. A productive email exchange filled with research citations, a litany of real-world examples, and a few logical inferences followed. At the end of the day, we still didn’t agree, but I was better as a result of the dialogue.

The holiday break gave me some time to think more about the interaction and one particular frustration expressed in this exchange. Namely, it’s one thing to oppose a...