State plans 42% cut, and school leaders have no action recommendations

Published February 6, 2015 by justicewg
County cut map

Funding changes in F.C. Numbers from the state, graphic from the Dispatch

The Kasich administration is planning a new school funding formula that will cut 42.5% of the state funding from Grandview schools. The superintendent and the school board should be livid at these cuts, they should be leading protest rallies and organizing the writing of protest letters to state representatives. And yet all public comment from the school leaders has been strangely passive. Why aren’t they standing up to defend our schools?

Crazy formula

Kasich has gone public with a plan that uses a complex new formula to assign changes in state funding. The “capacity” of a district to fund itself with higher local taxes are part of the formula, but increases in student numbers and changes in property values affect the final figures. Because New Albany has increased student enrollment and a recent drop in property value (a result of the end of the real estate bubble), that district would get the highest level of new state funding, even with one of the the highest average income levels in the state.

Grandview Heights, with a low new student enrollment and increasing property values, will receive a 42% cut, the biggest cut in Franklin County and also the biggest in the state. Rural school districts with high value land but low income will also be unfairly punished under the Kasich plan.

Culp says cuts happen

A letter from superintendent Culp was emailed out that reminded us that funds from the state are not the majority of the funds used to support the Grandview Heights school district, that 42.5% state cut will result in about 1 million dollars less, or 6% of the total annual operating budget. I emailed him asking what the school would do about this massive cut. He reminded me the word he used was significant, not massive.

The entire letter was strangely passive. The thrust of his statements are normalizing the state funding cuts. “We have implemented measures to offset previous state funding losses”. “We will be closely monitoring the budget process over the next several months.” Those are not calls to action, the letter is a call to sit back and do nothing.

Republican school board members are silent

A look at the public records of the school board members gives a clue why there is nothing but passivity and silence from the school. Grant Douglass has a long history of supporting Republican politicians, he has given Stivers over $8K in the last five years. Debbie Brannan is listed as a Republican in the voter records. The other board members show no public preference, the one exception is that Miller is a Democratic supporter. Under a policy governance board, it doesn’t matter what anyone other than the President thinks.

Former superintendent O’Reilly was a Republican who was thinking about running for office for his party. I’m sure the with Douglass in charge of selecting the present super that Culp is a loyal R.  (Full disclosure, those same public records will show I am a Democratic voter).

Faces with grossly unfair cuts in funding from the governor, the board should be livid. Instead we have silence from the board, and minimization from the super. They can’t be loyal Republicans and disagree with John Kasich at the same time.

Burn him in effigy

The Grandview Heights school board should be organizing rallies and burning Kasich in effigy. They should literally be taking a dummy dressed up to look like John Kasich, hanging it from a pole, then the school board and the superintendent should be setting it on fire in front of a crowd of chanting Grandview residents. That is the kind of public protest that gets the headlines and reminds politicians that there are real live people who get hurt and outraged when the governor makes unfair cuts.

Since I don’t have much hope that will happen, I would like the see the board at least hold some rallies. They could very easily organize a group of Grandview parents to go down to the statehouse lawn and hold up signs in protest.

I have a feeling that the board will sit back and do nothing. After all, the people of this city supported the levy last year, so the board can just go back and hit the local taxpayers up for more money.

(updates)

Culp continues to minimize the state cuts

The school leaders have had a week to formulate a response to the cut in state funding. They have looked at the numbers, which showed that Grandview Heights has taken the largest percentage cut in the state. Instead of making some completely justified statements about the unfairness of these cuts, the superintendent and the treasurer made statements in the TVN that minimized the impact, and assumed (without stated reasons) that the final funding plan from the state will be changed. They offered no action plan for parents to protest the cuts. The school board remains silent.

Funding choices are political

Governor Kasich responded to criticism of his school funding plans with a bizarre statement in which he called the outraged reaction from local schools “irresponsible”, and said “We need more superintendents who are educators, and less superintendents who are politicians.”

Message from 30 years ago to John Kasich: all superintendents must be politicians, because the tax cuts pushed by the Republicans have left local districts in a constant state of crisis, requiring superintendents to act as politicians in order to pass new levies to try to make up a lack of funding from the state.

Kasich made a political choice in creating a formula that takes money away from districts with “capacity for local funding” and give more money to poorer districts. There is no fundamental reason that some must loose and some gain, the governor could have increased funding alone. It would however conflict with his planned cuts in income tax rates, cuts which disproportionally help those with higher incomes. The local property taxes which are used by schools to make up funding cuts are regressive taxes.

The formula that Kasich is pushing also has the effect of rewarding large school districts and punishing small schools. Grandview Heights is the smallest school in Franklin County and was hit hard by this part of the formula. This is an attack on the concept of the small school, and those who say they are Grandview boosters should be loudly protesting this plan. And yet what we hear from school leaders is silence.

When school board members and school leaders must choose between loyalty to the local school and deference to their political party, you hope that they choose their neighbors. In this instance they have made a choice to be good Republicans, and they made a choice to stay silent.

(Feb 15)

Kasich says schools should use cash reserves

I’m seriously wondering if Kasich is losing it mentally. His background is Wall Street, he is supposed to understand economic theory. And yet he is now telling schools that have lost state funding to just dip into their cash reserves. Problem solved! I’m guessing next he will be telling schools to sell collateralized debt obligations and when the market crashes snatch up some Federal TARP money. Simple!

(July 2015 update post on school funding)

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2 comments on “State plans 42% cut, and school leaders have no action recommendations

  • The truth of the matter is that Grandview Heights School District has been given over $1 million dollars over the amount they were supposed to be given in state funds for a number of years. These “guarantee” funds are totally unfair to districts and students that don’t get them. It’s pure politics.

    Based on the local property wealth and income, GHHS is supposed to get $1200 per kid from the state. Yet they get $4000, which is why the per student amount is $14,000 – one of the highest in the state and $4,000 per kid over the state average. This extra money is from guarantee funds, property tax rollbacks, homestead exemption, etc.

    The reason the board is so quiet? They’ve paid money to a lobbyist to fight for the “rich districts.” Kasich tried to remove the Guarantee funds in the last budget cycle – and these lobbyists have been successful every time. The politicians know that the wealthy districts can mobilize and fight back a lot more than the less wealthy districts. They keep the funding formula so complex to keep those not close to it purposefully misled.

    Perhaps as good Democrats, we need to distribute the resources in the way that is most fair, particularly for kids that need it more. Kasich’s school funding plan is a lot closer to Robin Hood than you give him credit for.

    • I don’t disagree about the fact that education funding is pure politics. It has always been a political choice, both about how much is spent, and which funds (state or local) are used.

      I don’t know that there is anything wrong with accepting guarantee funds. If there is an unfairness to those funds, then they should have been available for all school districts.

      The Democrats I have been reading have not been talking so much about “Robin Hood education” as they have been pointing out that what Kasich is doing – cutting income taxes, and because of his educations cuts property taxes will be increased – is part of a long term effort by Republicans to help the rich and screw over the middle class. That’s reverse Robin Hood.

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