NOTES: John Mullaney is the Executive Director of the Nord Family Foundation. Both authors were part of the Straight A Fund advisory board in FY 14-15.
This piece originally appeared in a slightly different form in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
In 2013, Governor Kasich and Ohio legislators enacted the Straight A Fund, one of the nation’s largest statewide competitive grant programs for K-12 education. The idea sprang from philanthropic foundations across Ohio who saw this as an opportunity to have the state co-invest in truly innovative approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. A 2009 report Beyond Tinkering was presented to the legislature with specific recommendations to initiate such a fund. With $250 million in state funding over fiscal years (FY) 2014 and 2015, Straight A awarded sixty-one grants in amounts ranging from about $200,000 to $15 million. The fund was intended to spark innovative thinking and practices with the goal of boosting student achievement and reducing costs.
Yet after an initial burst of excitement, enthusiasm for Straight A waned. Collaborators from the philanthropic sector expressed concerns about the legislative emphasis on cost-savings, which some felt eclipsed the focus on innovation and achievement. In FY 2016-17, state lawmakers...