Prepared Notes for Board Meeting
March 8, 2010
Marc A. Schare
Last week, I attended part of the Ohio Statewide STEM conference down at COSI and I thought I’d share some nuggets from the event.
First, the chairman of the Ohio Senate Education Committee, Senator Cates, affirmed that the state’s structural deficit will be at least 4 billion dollars in the next biennium and it could go much higher than that. Despite this, he is determined to protect the investment in Ohio’s STEM program because he feels STEM education provides the greatest bang for the buck in terms of growing the overall population of Ohio by attracting business and also growing the personal income of the people who live here. He called the current unemployment rate in the state “unconscionable” and tied Ohio’s prospects for long term growth directly to STEM education, further commenting that we need to “educate our way out of a bad economy”. Chancellor Fingerhut commented that state leaders were really focused on the replicability of STEM start-up efforts because the level of grants for individual schools is not sustainable. Superintendent Delisle touched on the need to teach teachers how to teach STEM and that it was important for teachers to intertwine the content standards into “an interesting curriculum”.
A breakout session featuring Senator Sawyer, Rep. Debbie Phillips and Rep Gerald Stebelton was held to discuss Ohio’s STEM education policy. These three legislators are all on their respective education committees and all shared a belief that STEM was essential for Ohio’s future. There seemed to be consensus that Ohio’s budget, however, was in deep trouble.
Worthington was well represented at the conference. Jon Baird, Mike Miller and others were all taking Chancellor Fingerhut’s message of replicability to heart and sharing what they have learned. In the last few years, Worthington has developed quite a story around STEM between the one-of-the-first-in-the-state elementary offerings at Colonial Hills, a follow-on program at KMS and the STEM programs at Thomas and Kilbourne. I understand the board will be receiving a STEM update in the not to distant future but one thing seems clear – if the fate of Ohio rests on STEM education, our district must be prepared to play its part.
The TAC also met last week. The TAC will be taking up the question of whether to modify the 5 year forecast to reflect the probability that the state is going to cut our funding, either due to the partial elimination of the guarantee or due to no longer being able to reimburse for tangibles. After listening to Senator Cates and Senator Sawyer, the only real question isn’t whether we should reduce the forecast, it’s by how much. If the TAC does conclude that the forecast should be changed, a recommendation must also be made as to whether to increase the size or timing of the next levy or merely to expect local taxpayers to make up the difference. There are, of course, those who believe that Ohio will simply increase the income tax to pay for education, a real possibility depending on the outcome of the 2010 elections. Worthington residents should realize, however, that according to the latest CUPP report, out of every dollar in income tax that Worthington residents send to the state, only 16 cents comes back to our school district, thus making statewide tax increases a very inefficient way to fund our efforts here in Worthington.
My third update has to do with a building visit that Jennifer and I did this morning to the Worthington Campus School. I want to publically thank Mary Ziemke and Kathie Volpe for their hospitality, their overview and a tour of the school. The takeaway for me was that the campus school does an excellent job of managing to an ever changing set of students with a wide range of needs and that the district, county or state might want to look at expanding their mission to serve students with similar needs who don’t have the requirement for residential care at UMCH but could benefit from the campus school setting.
Finally, I attended a session at the State Board of Education meeting today regarding community school funding. For the last two biennium’s, ODE has submitted executive budget recommendations changing the paradigm for community school deductions that essentially make this a state responsibility rather than a local one as Worthington local taxpayers pay all the costs for the community schools that students residing in our district attend. The legislature has unfortunately ignored this part of the ODE budget request, however, I felt it prudent to make our concerns once again known to the State Board. As it turns out, our representative, Kristen McKinley, is on the SBOE budget committee and can hopefully advocate for us when the time is right.