Prepared Text for Board Meeting Ė December 10, 2007

Marc A. Schare614 791-0646 Home

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Tonight, I have a legislative update and one or two other comments.

 

First, we need to talk about the constitutional amendment. No, not *that* constitutional amendment, the constitutional amendment that was introduced last week by Senator Schuring as Senate Joint Resolution 4.

 

Senator Schuring seeks to stabilize K-12 education funding in the state with a formula consisting of income taxes, sales taxes, the cat tax and the lottery. The formula, as applied to 2008 funding, is expected to yield the same amount as the current allocation. The difference, therefore, is that this new amendment would put the funding on autopilot, theoretically growing as the various tax revenues grow. The formula amount is intended as a floor, meaning the general assembly could allocate a higher amount if desired.

 

Senator Schuringís plan has some positive benefits. It removes education funding as a political football. It could provide growth if the stateís economy is doing better and it will restrict the state allocation if the states economy is faltering. My initial reaction, however, is that SJR4, while possibly a step in the right direction statewide, is bad for Worthington.

 

SJR4 does not alter the process by which state dollars are allocated, so it is fair to assume that districts such as ours will continue to rely heavily on local property taxes unless the dollars available to the state dramatically increase. SJR4 will not dramatically increase the dollars available from the state. Worse, since education expenditures in most districts would probably exceed the revenue increases provided for by SJR4, we could conceivably see an additional robin hood effect, even steeper than what Worthington already faces. This only goes to highlight one of the basic truths about school funding as it applies to Worthington Ė whatever happens at the state level, be it legislative action, legislative initiatives for constitutional amendments such as SJR4 or blank check constitutional amendments such as that discussed last summer, Worthington is on its own and that message, told early and often and backed up with facts, must be one of the cornerstones of any 2009 levy message.

 

To become law, SJR4 requires 2/3 of the assembly and 2/3 of the senate to vote to put the measure on the ballot and than a majority vote of Ohio residents.

Miscellaneous comment number one concerns the Consolidated Annual Financial Report, the CAFR, that was distributed in our board packets this week. Iím sure that we all spent the weekend cuddled up with this tome of the districts financial condition and, ignoring the obvious mistakes on Page 37 of the document, it was a really fine piece of work. A shorter read, but no less interesting, was the auditorís management letter. While not technically a public document, I think that more data is better than less data for the public, so I would advocate releasing it. The finance committee will be reviewing the noncompliance findings and recommendations with the treasurer and report at our next meeting but on balance, if the items listed in the management report are the worst things that someone can say about us, we must be doing something right. One particularly interesting point in the management letter is some indirect criticism of the board for not watching the peopleís money closely enough, a situation I will personally correct in 2008.

 

Miscellaneous comment number two concerns the news reports about the governmentís subprime mortgage bailout. I always like to get the root cause of a problem and in this case, itís not that hard. Did the banks and mortgage companies take advantage of unsuspecting homebuyers? Maybe, but if so, they were only unsuspecting because the American educational system has failed them. I donít understand how we could require years of algebra and geometry and not have mandatory annual financial literacy starting no later than the 7th grade. If I could change one aspect of the curriculum, this would be it and I would love to see Worthington lead in this area and yes, I would commit tax dollars for this purpose because it has got to be cheaper than the alternative.

 

On a note of personal privilege, as we close out 2007, Iíd like to thank and congratulate the superintendent and staff for what I thought was a pretty consequential year, and while there were many accomplishments to look back on, my personal highlight for the district would be the opening of the Phoenix School. 30 years from now, Jeff Maddox and his team will be hailed as pioneers in education reform in this district and, perhaps, statewide and I feel trulyblessed that I was there at its birth.

 

Finally, Iíd like offer my two Christmas wishes for the Worthington School District and its stakeholders. First, may the new year keep us on the road to a sustainable financial future. Did you notice that we didnít talk about money that much in 2007? We concentrated and focused on the education of children and thatís how it should be and thatís how it must be. Second, may we have the wisdom and foresight to lead our district as we strive to define, and then provide, that elusive 21st century education and may we have the political and moral courage to provide that product for our community as quickly as possible.