Prepared Text for Board Meeting – May 21,  2007 (Betts Question)

Marc A. Schare

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I’d like to start by extending my personal welcome to Mr. Betts and to thank him publicly for agreeing to meet with me a few months back about the amendment. Mr. Betts was kind enough to give me an hour and a half of his time, therefore, I have no probing questions tonight. 4 minutes is simply not enough time to get beyond the talking points, so I won’t even try. I’ll ask but one question.

 

Mr. Betts, your colleague, William Phillis says that the amendment will put school funding on `autopilot' in that the level of resources will be based on student needs and not residual budgeting. Quoting Mr. Phillis, “This is scary to those who wish to maintain the status quo of the unconstitutional, inadequate and inequitable system.''. In response, the normally pro-reform Akron Beacon Journal wrote “Actually, the ``autopilot'' scares just about everyone else with a stake in state spending. Require the state school board (with a commission) to define a high quality education and lawmakers to put up the money, and soon enough others will yelp, those concerned about mental health, the disadvantaged and a sea of other priorities. The school groups revealed as much, their amendment protecting higher education and local governments. Truth be told, the ``autopilot'' sounds Blackwellian. It feeds the illusion of an easy answer, that what is essentially a political process (we elect those lawmakers, don't we?) can be squeezed clean of the political.

Less charitably, the Dayton Daily News wrote: It's dangerous to talk just to yourself. That's the trap that a bunch of groups that want more money for public schools have fallen into, before concluding: How can something that sounds so sensible be so wrong? The madness is in the fine print. The measure - if backers can collect the 402,000 signatures to put it on the ballot - would require state lawmakers to spend what the 19-member state school board says is necessary for a "high-quality" education, never mind any of the state's other priorities. Essentially, schools would get all that their advocates say they need, and everyone else would have to make do with the money that's left over.

The Findley Courier called this an elitist solution before commenting: Yes, another constitutional amendment. It seems that there's no end to the special interest groups that want to fool people into believing that their elected representatives are incapable of doing the right thing, so we should trust them instead. But in the end they are all special interest groups, and they all want the same thing: More of our money. The Courier concludes with: It's essentially a blank check. And that's really what these people have been after all along.


 

I don’t even have to quote from the Toledo Blade. The headline for their editorial was “Different Circus, Same Clowns”. The Cleveland Plain Dealer called your proposal a “self defeating stunt.  In Columbus, our very own Suburban Newspapers, the best friends that public education could ever have having endorsed every single school levy but one dating back at least 7 years, castigated your proposal by concluding with this: Last year, the legislature gave districts the ability to put levies on the ballot which allow them to reap inflationary growth in property taxes, which House Bill 920 prevents with all existing Ohio property taxes. The "inflation levy" hasn't been touched yet and probably won't ever be; Voters would frown at such an open-ended commitment. Despite its billing as a panacea, this school funding amendment poses an even larger open-ended commitment. Dangling a property tax rollback for seniors as a carrot ignores the fact that those lost tax dollars have to come from somewhere. This amendment pushes forward one model for a long overdue solution to school funding. But until its backers conjure up a price, it's a heavily flawed one that voters won't accept.

All across the state, newspaper editorial boards have heaped scorn on this proposal. Time prevents me from discussing the beating you took from the Columbus Dispatch or the Cincinnati Enquirer. In fact, to my knowledge, not one editorial board has come out in favor of your amendment. Not one. My question, Mr, Betts is – what do you know that these people do not and why can’t you get them to agree with you?