Prepared Text for Board Meeting Ė March 9, 2009

Marc A. Schare

614 791-0067 Work - 614 791-1779 Fax

marc9@aol.com

 

Tonight, I want to start what will no doubt be a 3 month discussion about Worthington and the Governorís education plan. If you ask around the various education lobbying organizations, about the only thing they will commit to about this plan is that it will continue to evolve. Worthington can sit on the sidelines hoping that it evolves in our favor or we can act and use whatever miniscule clout we have to attempt to influence the outcome.

 

Some people see the Governorís evidence based model as a plan for school reform, others see only dollar signs. In truth, it is both and they are inexorably tied together. The new funding formula has little in common with the old formula. In a vacuum, the new formula makes more sense as it attempts to get at the question of how many teachers and of what types of teachers, how many aides, nurses, administrations and so forth are required to teach x kids with different labels, special needs, LEP, gifted and so forth. HB1 then throws in some transportation, a little management, some technology, subtracts 20 mills and voila, you come out with a number which, according to the Columbus Dispatch, should result in Worthington receiving an extra million dollars or so in the next biennium and ten million dollars in the next decade. To me, while we can quibble about the numbers, this approach makes more sense than the previous formula and is a good starting point for the conversation.

 

Here is the problem. There is one great, all-encompassing often asked and never answered question. OSBA doesnít know, OASBO doesnít know, the legislature doesnít know and the state board doesnít know and the Governor wonít say. That question is: Will Worthington be required to implement the totality of the Evidence Based Model or are we free to use the stateís money to do what we want. If we are free to use the stateís money, we can take the million dollar bonus in the unlikely event that it materializes and use it for the purposes specified in our resolution of a few weeks ago. If we are forced to implement the evidence based model, weíll need to figure out how to comply with dozens of new mandates while running the current program with almost no additional money.

 

Conventional wisdom is that the state will offer waivers for some parts of the EBM the first year. Thatís very sporting of them to not require us to figure out how to plan for and implement all day kindergarten in the 7 weeks between the date the budget goes into effect and the date of the new school year, but all day kindergarten is but one of the components of the EBM which could be trouble for Worthington to implement and even if we get the waiver, HB1 revokes our authority to charge tuition so we would have to either cancel the program or spend general fund money to support it. Letís take a look at a few more mandates.

 

The EBM specifies a student/teacher ratio of 15:1 in the primary grades and 25:1 in the intermediate and secondary grades. This could result in a requirement for more teachers and more space.

 

The EBM specifies a requirement for 18 ďTeacher LeadersĒ, 18 nurses aides, a requirement for a career technical teacher for every 10 core teachers at the high school level and a possible requirement to allocate resources from the general fund towards either gifted programming, special education or both.

 

The EBM mandates ratios of specialist teachers such as art and music to core classroom teachers. The current proposal is a 1:5 ratio for K-8 and 1:4 for K-12. I have no idea what Worthingtonís ratios might be.

 

The EBM funds technology. Currently, we are paying for technology out of bond money and our plan is to continue to do this, for the most part, at least until 2017. Will the state force us to now use general fund money for these purchases.

 

The EBM mandates a longer school year although interestingly, as a result of our collective bargaining agreement, I believe we would be exempt for the first two years.

 

Truthfully, I can go on for pages with the mandates and assumptions in HB1 but I donít want to lose sight of the macro issue Ė the policy question if you will. If we are required to implement the Evidence Based Model, it is fair to say that local control of school districts in Ohio will cease and it is also fair to say that we would require local tax increases to fund what we are funding now since the state isnít giving us money to implement any of these mandates. I have far more faith in Dr. Conrath, Treasurer McCuen, our administrators, our principals, our teachers and our staff than I have in the Ohio legislature or ODE and I donít trust one size fits all models, so I would reject any mandate to implement the EBM in total and I would hope that this board would join me.

 

That said, there are many appealing parts to the Governorís plan. In my opinion, he is on the right track with his thoughts on modernizing the teaching profession, we do need additional focus on attainment of 21st century skills and we definitely need to rethink the obsession on assessment, but as a general rule, we could do these things here in Worthington if we felt they rose to a high enough priority with our residents. I personally am very uncomfortable with a whole new set of mandates, many of which we cannot know until after the legislation passes and ODE committees start their work. I would therefore urge my colleagues, our administration and our staff to advocate for a more self-directed approach as to those elements of the EBM that we feel are most appropriate in our community.