When the new millennium rang in on January 1, 2000, Ohio was marching down the path of education reform. The state was seeking improvements to its K-12 education system particularly in the areas of school funding, academic content standards, school choice, and accountability.

The DeRolph lawsuit, originally filed in 1991, was forcing lawmakers to redesign Ohio’s system of school funding. From 1995 to 2009, K-12 per-pupil spending increased 35 percent (inflation-adjusted). Nearly $5 billion of the state’s $10.2 billion in tobacco settlement money was invested in a major endeavor to rebuild or renovate the state’s public school buildings.

In exchange for an influx of additional funding to local school districts, lawmakers, following the trend in other reform-minded states, put academic accountability and school choice measures in place.

By the early 1990s, for the first time, parents and policy makers could compare academic performance across schools and districts with the Ohio Proficiency Tests in fourth, sixth, and ninth grade. Students were required to pass the ninth-grade test in order to graduate from high school. The state also enacted a “fourth-grade guarantee” which required students to pass the reading section of the fourth-grade proficiency test in order to advance to fifth grade.

In 1995, Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives for the first time in more than 20 years and controlled the House, Senate, and governor’s office. That same year, the composition of the State Board of Education shifted in an effort to give the governor more control over public education. The board transitioned from 21 elected members to 11 elected and eight appointed members.

School choice was launched during this time as well. The Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program was established as a pilot program in 1995 to provide school vouchers to children in that city. Ohio’s first charter schools opened their doors in 1998 and by the turn of the century, 52 charter schools were in operation statewide.

In many ways, Ohio was a national education reform leader by 2000. The reforms to follow over the next ten years would happen at an even greater pace. As we prepare to embark on a new decade, we thought it appropriate to reflect on what the Buckeye State has accomplished over the past decade.

Key K-12 education events: 1999 to 2009

Events are color-coded to reflect the following categories: Green – School funding; Purple – Economic; Orange – Political; Red – Accountability & standards; Blue – Charters & choice; Navy – Other initiatives.  

March 1999. Governor Taft gives his first State of the State address and proposes his first biennial budget. At $40 billion it marks an 11.6 percent increase from the previous biennium.

March 1999. The legislature approves Governor Taft’s first education initiative, the OhioReads program, which aims to help students meet the “fourth-grade guarantee” by providing literacy grant funding to elementary schools and recruiting volunteer reading tutors to supplement school reading instruction.

March 1999. Susan Tave Zelman is sworn in as Ohio’s 34th State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

June 1999. Authority to sponsor start-up charter schools is extended to the state’s 21 largest districts as well as those rated Academic Emergency by the state.

September 1999. A Tobacco Task Force is created to recommend appropriate use of these funds. Under the plan $4.5 billion of the $10.1 billion would be used for school facilities.

December 1999. A federal judge in Ohio declares Cleveland’s Scholarship and Tutoring Program unconstitutional as it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

March 2000. Ohio’s unemployment rate (seasonally-adjusted) reaches a low of 3.9 percent; the national unemployment rate is 4.0 percent (the national low in 2000 was in April at 3.8 percent).

May 2000. As part of the DeRolph school funding case (filed originally in 1991), the Ohio Supreme Court rules that the state’s fourth-grade guarantee is an unfunded mandate.

January 2001. Larry Householder becomes Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives.

July 2001. SB 1 enacts significant education accountability provisions, based largely on the report from the Governor’s Commission on Student Success. The new provisions include establishing academic content standards for all grades in math, English, science, social studies, fine arts, foreign language, and technology; requiring state assessments aligned to those standards to replace the current proficiency tests; putting in place the Ohio Graduation Test; requiring districts to intervene with students who score below a certain level on the state tests; requiring the state to issue building-level report cards in addition to district report cards.

2001. Despite a revised funding system and increases in state funding for education, the Ohio Supreme Court rules again that its education finance system is unconstitutional.

2001. Charter opponents file a suit challenging Ohio’s charter law on the grounds that charter schools divert funding away from public schools and are therefore unconstitutional.

January 2002. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is enacted by the U.S. Congress under the George W. Bush Administration, requiring state testing in certain subjects in grades three through eight and that 100 percent of students attain proficiency in reading and math by 2014.

June 2002. After an appeal of the Ohio decision, the United States Supreme Court rules in favor (5-4) of upholding Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, determining that it does not violate of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Zelman case (filed originally in 1996) is a landmark decision in that it removes constitutional barriers to similar voucher programs in the future.

January 2003. Doug White is elected president of the Ohio Senate, which remains in Republican hands with a 22-11 majority. Bob Taft is sworn in for his second term as governor.

January 2003. HB 364 caps start-up charter schools at 225, ends the State Board of Education’s role as a sponsor, and increases the pool of eligible sponsors to include non-profits and state colleges and universities among others. Location of start-up charter schools is limited to the Ohio Eight districts, districts in Lucas County, and districts rated Academic Emergency or Academic Watch by the state.

February 2003. The Governor’s Commission on Teaching Success issues its final report and the legislature enacts recommendations later that year, including establishing the Educator Standards Board and requiring the state to develop model evaluations for teachers and principals.

2003. State begins rolling out tests aligned to the new academic content standards and begins developing a “value-added” component to measure student progress. Ohio is one of the first states to incorporate value-added measures into its school accountability system.

2003. DeRolph plaintiffs ask the court for a compliance conference; Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro requests that the Ohio Supreme Court prohibit this action and the Court agrees, thus ending the case.

June 2003. The Autism Scholarship is passed as a pilot in the FY 04-05 budget bill.

January 2005. Jon Husted is elected Speaker of the Ohio House and Bill Harris President of the Senate. Republicans continue to hold the majority in both chambers.

June 2005. The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Financing Student Success releases its final report, and the legislature adopts many of its recommendations via the biennial budget bill.

June 2005. HB 66 (FY 06-07 biennial budget) authorizes ODE to create a school choice scholarship which provides up to 14,000 vouchers worth $4,250 for elementary grade students and $5,000 for high school students to be used only in chartered non-public schools. To be eligible for a voucher, a student must be assigned to a public school building that was rated by the Ohio Department of Education as “Academic Emergency” or "Academic Watch" for two of the last three consecutive years.

June 2005. Also via HB 66, the state puts in place caps on charter schools and sponsors as well as an e-school moratorium.

2006. Ohio Achievement Tests in grades three through eight are fully phased in. For the first time all state assessments are aligned with state academic standards, common to Ohio’s more than 4,000 public schools.

October 2006. In a 4-3 ruling, Ohio Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of state law authorizing charter schools.

November 2006. Democrat Congressman Ted Strickland is elected governor and all but one non-judicial statewide office go to Democrats, ending 12 years of Republican rule in the legislative and executive branches of state government.

December 2006. HB 79 reduces caps on charter school sponsors by one for each school that permanently closes and allows charter school operators to appeal a sponsor’s decision to terminate a contract.

December 2006. In comments to the Ohio Education Association, Governor-elect Strickland vows to fix school funding in Ohio and hangs the success of his governorship on doing so.

December 2006. Autism Scholarship becomes permanent law as part of HB 699, the Capital Bill. The amount of the Autism Scholarship is capped at $20,000. To be eligible a student must be identified with autism, enrolled in their public district of residence, have a current and agreed upon IEP, and have no administrative or judicial mediations or proceedings pending regarding the IEP.

March 2007. Governor Strickland delivers his first State of the State address. He calls for securitizing the state’s tobacco settlement payments and using the lump sum to pay for school construction and renovation projects; a moratorium on new charter schools and the elimination of for-profit school operators; and the elimination of the statewide voucher program.

2007. Ohio raises its graduation requirements with passage of the “Ohio Core” legislation. Starting with 2010’s ninth-grade class, all students will be required to take Algebra II and a host of other courses in order to earn a diploma.

May 2007. The Class of 2007 is the first group of students required to pass the Ohio Graduation Test.

May 2007. Governor Strickland and Republican-led legislature agree to bill that grants the governor authority to appoint the Chancellor of the Board of Regents (with the consent of the Senate) to a five-year term and moves much of the authority currently held by the board to the Chancellor. Current Chancellor Eric Fingerhut (who was appointed by the board in March) is re-appointed by Strickland.

June 2007. The FY 08-09 budget (HB 119) invests $200 million for the development of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) initiative. By 2009 there are 8 STEM schools and 26 STEM programs of excellence statewide.

June 2007. HB 119 also lifts the moratorium on new charter schools but stipulates that they must be managed by operators with a track record of success.

June 2007. Governor Strickland vetoes a budget provision creating a special education voucher program.

August 2007. Value-added progress measures are included in the state’s accountability system.

September 2007. Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann files first of four lawsuits to shut down poorly performing charter schools in Dayton and Cincinnati, arguing that the schools should be closed for failing to fulfill their obligations under state charitable trust laws.

October 2007. Amid faltering markets, Gov. Ted Strickland has the remainder of tobacco payouts securitized and the state receives a lump payment of $5.05 Billion. The funds are used in the FY 08-09 budget to expand the Homestead Tax Exemption and the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

January 2008. The Gates foundation contributes $12 million towards the STEM Learning Network – part of a $50 million commitment by state and private partners.

February 2008. Governor Strickland gives his State of the State address in which he proposes having a governor-appointed, executive branch leader for K-12 education and relegating the State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction to advisory roles.

March 2008. Chancellor Eric Fingerhut releases his 10-year plan for the University System of Ohio, which includes new performance-based accountability measures for colleges and universities and a goal of seeing 270,000 more students enrolled in Ohio higher education institutions.

March 2008. In comments to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the governor ratchets up his demand for more control over K-12 education and his attacks on State Superintendent Susan Zelman, saying she wasn’t a good manager and had no vision for education in Ohio.

May 2008. Marc Dann resigns as state attorney general following a sexual harassment scandal in his office.

May 2008. State Superintendent Susan Zelman announces her resignation; she remains in office until November.

July 2008. Governor Strickland launches a statewide series of invitation-only “Conversations on Education” to gain public input about the education reform plan he is developing.

September 2008. Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama gives an education speech in Dayton in which he pledges to move his education agenda beyond politics and ideology. The speech includes a call for raising academic expectations for all students, and the senator voices his support for charter schools.

September 2008. A state appeals court dismisses a lawsuit filed against a Dayton charter school by then Ohio attorney general Marc Dann. The last of the four lawsuits is dismissed in 2009.

November 2008. Democrats win the majority in the Ohio House of Representatives, taking 53 of the 99 seats. Armond Budish becomes first Democrat House Speaker since 1995. Republicans hold their strong majority (21 of 33 seats) in the Ohio Senate. Barack Obama is elected president of the United States.

December 2008. Cleveland Heights-University Heights Superintendent Deborah Delisle takes over the state K-12 education agency as Ohio’s 35th State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

January 2009. In his State of the State address, Governor Strickland renews his call for prohibiting for-profit charter school operators and offers a peek at his much-anticipated education reform plan.

February 2009. Governor Strickland unveils his education reform and school funding plan. The “evidence-based” model mandates staffing inputs at the building level, requires the development of new academic standards and state tests, and changes the state teacher licensing rules. The proposed budget severely curtails funding for and autonomy of charter schools.

2009. 763 school buildings have been constructed or renovated through the Ohio School Facilities Commission and another 300 projects are in progress. Nearly 1,600 building projects statewide still need to be undertaken.

June 2009. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announce Ohio among list of states and territories joining Common Core Standards Initiative, a voluntary partnership across states to develop a “common core” of state standards in English and math for grades K-12.

July 2009. Ohio’s unemployed rate (seasonally-adjusted) hits a high of 11.2 percent; the national unemployment rate is 9.4 percent (the national high in 2009 is 10.2 percent in October).

July 2009. Governor Strickland’s education reform plan is signed into law via the FY 10-11 biennial budget. Components of the final bill include a new evidence-based funding system that moves away from per-pupil funding toward inputs-based funding, lower student-teacher ratio requirements, and mandatory all-day kindergarten. The legislation puts all charter school sponsors under the authority of the Ohio Department of Education and tightens Ohio’s charter school closure laws. Teacher tenure is extended to the seventh year of a teacher’s career, and new teachers will be required to participate in a four-year residency program. The law also calls for a revision of the state’s academic content standards and assessments, and replaces the Ohio Graduation Test with a series of measures including the ACT, end-of-course exams, and student projects.

July 2009. President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan announce Race to the Top, an unprecedented $4.35 billion competitive grant program (part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) awarded based on states’ ability to implement reforms in four areas: standards and assessments; teacher and principal effectiveness; longitudinal statewide data systems; and turning around the lowest-performing schools.

August 2009. Gates Foundation selects 15 states to receive up to $250,000 to hire consultants to help fill out their Race to the Top application. In September, Gates extends offer to all states.

September 2009. First official public draft of “Common Core” college and career-readiness standards released.

September 2009. The Ohio Supreme Court rules that the governor’s plan to raise revenue by placing slot machines at the state’s race tracks is subject to voter referendum, putting nearly $1 billion in funding for K-12 education in jeopardy.

October 2009. Sen. Husted introduces legislation (SB 180) that would make Ohio more competitive for Race to the Top by lifting the moratorium on charter e-schools, granting teacher licensure to Teach For America alumni, and requiring the use of student performance data in teacher/principal evaluations. (Companion bill: Morgan HB 312)

October 2009. A statewide conference, “World-Class Academic Standards for Ohio,” brings together state and national leaders to discuss the Common Core Standards Initiative. Following conference, ODE officials tell the Columbus Dispatch that Ohio may not fully adopt the “Common Core” standards after all (due to Ohio’s impending requirement to adopt new academic standards by June 2010, ODE fears it might not have time to wait until Common Core standards are finalized in January 2010).

October 2009. The Ohio Education Association opposes SB 180 and argues that Ohio is already in a “strongly competitive position” for Race to the Top.

November 2009. After about a month in limbo, Ohio Department of Education announces that it will not release its own draft standards in English and math as planned, because it plans to fully adopt the Common Core standards.

November 2009. After a period of public feedback (garnering over 1100 comments) U.S Secretary of Education Duncan releases the final Race to the Top application.

November 2009. Sen. Sawyer proposes competing legislation (SB 207) resembling SB 180; it would lift moratorium on charter e-schools (but not until 2011), and permit the Department of Education and the Chancellor to establish a longitudinal data system. (Companion bill: Garrison HB 370). Sen. Sawyer says that “Ohio already has an A; we want to make it an A+.” Gov. Strickland says that Ohio is one of the “strongest positioned states.”

December 2009. After a bitter three-month debate, the governor and legislature agree to a fix for the state budget gap. Republicans agree to delaying the last year of an income tax rollback in exchange for a pilot effort to reform public construction practices and an effective delay of the all-day kindergarten mandate.

by the Ohio Education Gadfly team

Then and now: the decade in numbers

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