Prepared Text for House Finance Committee Ė April 17, 2007

Marc A. Schare

2113 Selbourne Ct, Dublin OH 43016

614 791-0646 Home

614 791-0067 Work

marc9@aol.com

 

Good Afternoon. My name is Marc Schare and I am a member of the Worthington School District Board of Education. I appreciate this opportunity to speak to you today. Before we begin, let me make it clear that my opinions may or may not represent the opinions of Worthingtonís school board, Superintendent or Treasurer. Iíd also like to mention that like millions of Ohioans, I did my taxes over this last weekend and Iíd be remiss if I forgot to thank you for my income tax cut these last two years.

 

I want to talk to you today about 4 separate items related to school funding. Donít worry. Iím not here to ask you for more money and Iím keenly aware that if you had more money for K-12 education, youíre not going to be giving it to rich, suburban school districts anytime soon.

 

First, Iíd like you to consider the ODE proposal to have the money follow the kid. We (Worthington) send a lot of money to charter schools and community schools. The way the mechanism is supposed to work is that for each kid that goes to a charter school and happens to live in Worthington, the state adds 1 to our enrollment count, thereby increasing our state aid by 5400+ dollars and then turns around and deducts the $5400 from us, so we are revenue neutral because we don't have the kid and we don't have the money. In Worthington, as in 300+ other districts, because we are on a state guarantee, we get nothing when the state adds one to our enrollment count but the state still deducts the $5400 when a kid goes to a charter school.
Note that in this context, charter schools also include students taking advantage of autism scholarships, which is where we lose the bulk of these funds.
This proposal (from ODE) would modify the mechanism as follows. When a student goes to a charter school, the student is not counted in
Worthington's enrollment and the state would not deduct the $5400 from Worthington's state allocation. In other words, the money would go with the kid. This issue would also solve the most stated objection to charter schools Ė that they remove money from public education. If a kid never enters the door of a public school facility, the public school district should have no expectation of additional funds simply because the kid happens to live in the district. This mechanism would make it appear to the public schools as if the kid never existed. No loss of funds at all Ė simply a contract between the parents, the state and the charter school, which leads me to my second point.

 

Governor Stricklandís proposal for a moratorium on charter schools is bad for Ohio but ironically, it is bad for public education in Ohio. Some of the most interesting projects are being implemented by public school districts as conversion schools because of the grants available to such entities. In my own district of Worthington, we had some vacant space in our middle schools so we invited our teachers to submit proposals for alternative middle schools. We got back 4 of the most entrepreneurial proposals you can imagine Ė cutting edge stuff. We will be proud to be opening the doors of our new Phoenix middle school in September and we will be implementing more of these in the years to come. I want to highlight one aspect of Phoenix that some of you will find surprising. In their research, our teachers concluded that there was not enough time in the school district day for what they wanted to accomplish. Their solution Ė extend the day, and they agreed to do so at no taxpayer cost and with the consent of the local teachers union. If you allow the Governor to remove charter and conversion schools from Ohio, you are, in effect, saying that the status quo is good enough. Perhaps it is good enough for the governor, but at least in Worthington, we know we can do better, and our new Phoenix Middle School will be demonstrating this every day starting in the fall.

 

Third, I want to put in a plug for the continuation of the transitional aid guarantee for this biennium and a plea that you take some time to try and understand why over 300 school districts are on either the transitional aid guarantee, the foundation guarantee or the reappraisal guarantee at any given point in time. What is the point of a complex funding formula that doesnít apply to almost half of the districts? We are required to submit 5 year forecasts, we are required to plan levy strategies 4 years out but at any given point in time, we have no idea what the legislature will do. We need stability in the funding formula. This year, the difference between the elimination of all guarantees (worst case) and the continuation of the transitional aid guarantee (best case) inWorthington is over $10 million dollars annually. Thatís well over 100 teachers, and we are forced into a guessing game of will they or wonít they. The new wrinkle of whether or not the legislature will commit to the permanent reimbursement of tangible property taxes isnít helping us in that planning process either. Thanks for your consideration on that one.

 

Fourth, when was the last time the state took a good, hard look at the cost drivers of public education? As we prepare to debate the school funding constitutional amendment, arguably, the most destructive piece of legislation since I moved to Ohio in 1990, can we at least start to look at expenses in a serious way? For example, and I throw this out as a thought experiment Ė what is the purpose of STRS and SERS. Why do we have a separate retirement system for school employees as opposed to social security? Taxpayers contribute 14% of salaries, an enormous figure statewide, into this system, but no one seems to know why we do this. With an average of over 20 applicants for each open teaching position statewide, it is surely not required to attract teachers. There are many such examples in Ohioís culture of K-12 education, with health care, restrictive employee contracts and micromanagement at the state and federal levels leading the charge. Intuitively, you have to see that a system that requires 614 unique taxing jurisdictions to compete against each other, with taxpayer dollars,for teacher and administrative talent can only maximize the cost of K-12 education across the state. It seems clear to me that if you get start to get handle on expenses, no funding formula would ever yield sufficient resources to sustain K-12 education in Ohio.

 

Thank you for attention.