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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ohio School Children's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how Ohio's charter schools had a week that revealed that no entities misspend public tax dollars more than they do, several convictions came down regarding charter school operators and bribery and that several charters were going to be closed by the state for failing academics.

What a difference a week makes. Now it's the 1.6 million kids in Ohio's local public schools who ended up getting the short end of the stick from this state's elected leaders. Let's go through the last week's carnival.

First, a week ago, the Ohio Senate -- out of nowhere -- creates a dictatorship in Youngstown, essentially undoing the will of the people of that great city.

Then, the Ohio General Assembly fails to pass the first meaningful charter school reform bill since the program started, even though a a majority of the Ohio House was willing to pass the much-improved bill that flew through the Ohio Senate unanimously. So the two-year-long, bipartisan effort to reform Ohio's nationally ridiculed charter school system came up short, keeping this state's national joke of a system in place.

And last night, literally in the middle of the night, Gov. John Kasich took a break from his presidential campaign to cut another $78 million from school districts by eliminating tangible personal property (TPP) tax reimbursement payments in the 2016-2017 school year. While it will take some time to do a district-level analysis of this veto's impact, suffice it to say that small districts like Mogadore and urban districts will get the brunt of the cuts, as will some wealthier districts.

But before this governor started wiping out TPP reimbursements in his first budget, the state's urban districts received about $180 million from them, and more than $900 million of the payments were made statewide, with every district (not just the wealthy ones, as Kasich claims) got at least some reimbursement, with 203 getting more than $1 million. Now that none will be made, it means every district will have to find ways to ensure children don't suffer from these cuts.

Yes, the state has about made up for the TPP reimbursement payments by increasing state aid overall since 2011, but districts still are getting less in this budget than they did five years ago, adjusted for inflation. And that budget was developed at the height of the Great Recession.

I wish I could say this outcome has surprised me. But as a legislator and now a policy analyst, it's pretty well par for the course.

All we can do is keep fighting. Hard.

As my mentor once told me: "If they're getting away with it, it's your fault."