Posts Tagged 'education'

Schools Across State Starving in Face of Historically Deep Budget Cuts

As the Ohio House Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education prepares to meet tonight at Lima High School, 1 Spartan Way in Lima at 6pm, State Rep. Matt Lundy (D- Elyria) highlighted the need to put our kids and communities first as they face financial crisis.

Ohio school districts are projecting huge deficits because of $1.4 billion in cuts to education in the state’s operating budget, which passed along party lines.  Schools in Allen County were cut a total of more than $11 million for fiscal years 2012-13 when compared to 2011, including $2.39 million from Lima City Schools and nearly $2 million from Shawnee Local School. Districts across the state are left to struggle with the best way to prepare children for the future with larger class sizes, fewer music and art programs, costly extra-curricular activities and limited or no busing. 

“Rather than addressing the brewing financial crisis facing communities like Lima, where the city schools face a projected deficit of $1.24 million dollars for fiscal year 2013 and more than $3 million for fiscal year 2014, Republicans have decimated school funding.  Schools across the state struggle to cope with unfunded mandates, large class sizes and few teachers in the classroom,” said Rep. Lundy.

House Bill 30 dismantled education reforms set in place by Democrats taking apart key provisions like all-day kindergarten, and it removed the Evidence Based Model for education, returning us to an unconstitutional funding system that is overly reliant on property taxes, while we wait for Gov. Kasich to introduce his own plan, and hold hearings around the state nearly two years later.

“It’s been 15 years since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that our school funding system is unconstitutional because it relies too heavily on local property tax,” said State Rep. Matt Lundy. “Today, as schools face tough decisions this reliance is only growing, and rather than finding long-term solutions that benefit our students legislators like Rep. Matt Huffman propose taking more money away form public education (HB 136) and handing it to unaccountable for-profit charter schools.”

35 school districts asked citizens to pass levies, increasing their local property taxes, during special elections just last week, with the overwhelming majority of them failing. While school districts across the state are facing a combined school-funding deficit of over $1.79 billion in fiscal year 2014. This is based on a calculation of each school district’s five-year projection of finances, which is required to be submitted to the Ohio Department of Education. Policy Matters Ohio also estimates that school districts in “Fiscal Watch” or “Fiscal Emergency” could spike by 300 percent this year, from 14 to 43.

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State Reps. Clyde and Phillips Urge Gov. Kasich to Veto Controversial Provision Regarding Student Loans

State Reps. Kathleen Clyde and Debbie Phillips sent a letter urging Gov. John Kasich to exercise his line item veto power over a provision contained in House Bill 487.  The provision would grant the State Treasurer the authority to deposit any unexpected revenues paid for by Ohio college students in the State Treasurer’s office administrative fund. 

The Full letter can be seen below:

Dear Governor Kasich,

We write to respectfully ask for your consideration of using the line-item veto power on ORC Section 3366.05 contained in Am. Sub. H.B. 487. After carefully reviewing this section of proposed law, we believe it to be contrary to the best interests of Ohio’s college students.

This portion of the mid-biennium budget bill received little scrutiny.  To our knowledge, this proposed law was added in Senate Finance Committee with little, if any, discussion on the language and its potential consequences.

This section of the code authorizes the Treasurer of State to operate as a servicer of federal student loans “to take such actions and to enter into such contracts and to execute all instruments necessary or appropriate to act” as a servicer; deposit revenues received for this purpose in a custodial fund located outside the state treasury; and specifies that any revenues that are unexpended must be deposited in the Treasurer’s state administrative fund. It is this last provision, in particular, that causes us the greatest concern.

As written, this provision would allow the State Treasurer to use any “unexpended revenues” paid for by Ohio college students to bolster the administrative fund for the State Treasurer’s office.  Although the act of servicing student loans by the State Treasurer is not necessarily disagreeable, allowing excess student loan funds to be used for unspecified administrative purposes is bad public policy.

Additionally, using these “unexpended revenues” for administrative spending is overly broad, and there is no requirement that these funds be used to support Ohio college students directly or indirectly.

It remains unclear where the language came from and who is supportive of potentially authorizing the use of student loan interest and fees to support the administrative fund for the State Treasurer’s office.  If this is a law change the State Treasurer sought through the MBR, it would have been helpful to hear directly from him on precisely how he plans to use any unexpended revenues.

As student loan debt tops $1 trillion throughout the nation, and students in Ohio average $27,000 in debt for a four year degree, we must do all we can to help make college affordable for all Ohioans.  As it stands, it is unclear if this policy change accomplishes this goal. 

Clearly, adding this policy change into and expansive piece of legislation at the last minute did not allow for the legislature to fully review and consider this proposal.  By exercising your line-item veto authority now, the legislature can take this matter up as a stand-alone bill and examine this proposal and better understand its impact on Ohio college students.
 

Sincerely,
State Rep. Debbie Phillips                                                     
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde

Public Universities May Offer Equal Voting Rights to Student Trustees

The Ohio House passed House Bill 377 (HB 377), sponsored by State Representatives Michael Stinziano and Mike Duffey, to allow public university and colleges’ boards of trustees to bestow equal voting rights on student trustees.

“Across Ohio, student trustees are making extremely valuable contributions to the work of university boards. Today’s bipartisan vote in support of HB 377 affirms our belief and confidence in the caliber of students attending our universities and colleges. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support Ohio’s students and pass this bipartisan legislation,” said Rep. Stinziano.

“Whether you are a student, parent or taxpayer, we all benefit when public universities put students first,” said Rep. Duffey. “With voting rights, student trustees will be able to advocate for affordable tuition , an education that results in a job after graduation and the ability to earn a degree after four years, not six, with less debt and more opportunity.”

Currently, each of Ohio’s 14 public universities has two student trustees who have no voting power and are not included in quorum or entitled to attend executive sessions. HB 377 gives boards of trustees the authority to grant the student trustees on their board full voting rights. The bill requires boards of trustees to pass a resolution within 90 days of its effective date either affirming or denying voting rights to its student trustees. If the board of trustees affirms voting rights then student trustees will have the ability to vote on all matters before the board, can attend executive sessions, and can count towards quorum.  If a board decides not to grant voting powers to student trustees, future boards have the ability to pass a subsequent resolution overturning the previous resolution and grant student trustees full voting rights.

Ohio’s student trustees are appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Ohio Senate, from a group of five candidates selected pursuant to a procedure adopted by the university’s student governments and approved by the board of trustees. The term of office for student trustees is two years. Senate Bill 266, companion legislation to HB 377, is currently being considered in the Senate Education Committee.

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Teacher Appreciation: by State Rep. Debbie Phillips

This week is national teacher appreciation week. Each of us can think of a teacher, or teachers, who made a difference in our lives. My children have both had excellent teachers, and we feel very fortunate to live in a community that has such a wealth of smart, caring educators. I hope we all take a moment to thank a teacher this week, and to proudly recognize educators who work every day to help nurture Ohio’s children and prepare them for the future.

Public education is the foundation of the middle class, and we must fight to protect and improve our schools. Having the best schools and teachers is vital to growing our economy and preparing young people in our community for the jobs of the future.

Local school districts across the state are facing difficult decisions, including laying off teachers and cutting programs. Supporting teachers in their work necessarily includes providing the tools and resources to prepare our children for a successful future. It would be wise for leaders to recognize and support their hard work.

We have a responsibility together to make sure schools are working for our children. Last year, the state budget made historically deep cuts to education. To understand the impact, House Democrats calculated the projected school-funding deficit for every school district in Ohio based on their five-year forecasts. The results are sobering. In fiscal year 2014, the combined school-funding deficit in Ohio is estimated to be $1.79 billion.

Every week newspapers around the state are reporting possible teacher cuts, the elimination of bus routes, building closures, and lots of new levy attempts. Rural, urban, and suburban schools are all struggling in the current climate, and we cannot turn our backs on the kids and communities of this state.

My colleagues in the Ohio House and I have proposed a modest plan to help our schools and communities during these difficult times. Our plan, the Kids and Communities First Fund, would make up to $400 million available this year to keep teachers in the classroom, and police and firefighters on the streets.

While this would not solve all the problems, it would provide some immediate relief to communities around the state without a local tax increase. Our fund would use surplus revenue, currently $350 million and growing, and a portion of the Rainy Day Fund. Sadly, when offered as a budget amendment, it was rejected along party lines without ever being seriously considered, but I will be introducing this proposal as a standalone bill in the near future.

Currently, the state of Ohio is functioning without a formula or a plan for funding schools. Governor Kasich’s budget repealed the formula, and replaced it with “bridge” funding. This has caused deep uncertainty for schools, and hearings on a new proposal are only now beginning. I trust that a good faith effort will be made to work together in a nonpartisan way to make real progress on a fair way of funding schools, so that children in Ohio have a good education, no matter where they live.

Students in our region should have access to a full curriculum, high level coursework, early childhood education, and other resources to enable them to develop their talents and find success in the world at large. Teachers are the key, and real appreciation will have to include making sure that teachers can do their life’s work—helping to nurture the inquisitive minds entrusted to their care. Teachers are called to service. Let’s do our part to show respect and appreciation for our teachers by taking seriously our responsibility to fund public education in Ohio.

This week, teacher appreciation week, I thank all the educators who work tirelessly for our children. I will continue working to ensure that our children have access to a high quality public education, throughout Ohio, and I hope you will too.

Teacher Appreciation: by State Rep. Nickie Antonio

Recently we celebrated National Teacher Appreciation Week; the reality that many teachers face in the classroom is anything but appreciation.  Teachers are forced to deal with the results of state budget cuts while at the same time, expected to perform to perfection with limited resources in order to meet state mandates.

In Fiscal Year 2013, Ohio’s schools are facing a budget deficit of over $1.13 billion.  The financial outlook becomes bleaker in Fiscal Year 2014, when the combined budget deficit reaches over $1.78 billion.  These unprecedented cuts have led to teacher and staff layoffs and potential reductions in curriculum across the state.

School districts have taken massive hits on Governor Kasich’s watch. Lakewood City Schools’ projections for the next two fiscal years are short by about $13-15 million. If we want to just get by, the money will have to come from somewhere. Lawmakers can’t keep crying wolf about our schools, saying we have to defund them to “fix them”.  Not only does doing so work against students, families and teachers, but it builds a narrative that public education is so askew that we should settle on privatizing tax dollars for education without acknowledging the excellence that also exists in many of our public schools.

Just a few weeks ago, Cleveland City Schools announced that 508 teaching positions would be lost at the end of this year while another 200 teachers took retirement packages. The district plans on shortening the school day and cutting music and arts programs. At the same time, the district has devised a transformation strategy and will ask voters to further subsidize public education in the area due to some $60 million that was slashed from our district in the biennium budget. Surely we can all agree that there are cost savings measures which could put in place. Teachers consistently take pay cuts, pay for supplies with their salary, and see reductions in benefits. Already, teachers in Cleveland have settled on a 5-6 percent pay cut next year. There’s no compromise from the state.

I want to state here that I support Mayor Jackson’s plan as presented to the Legislature through HB 525. I participated in many of the planning meetings in a process nothing short of amazing. A group of concerned leaders from the Mayor, school superintendent, business and philanthropy made room at the table to include teachers and legislators to refine a plan in hopes of reinventing the CMSD.  I support the legislation as introduced because sometimes exercising leadership requires taking a risk, and this plan gives hope to our children and their future beyond partisan rhetoric.

In this challenging climate other casualties emerge that give me pause. Women are disproportionately affected by education budget cuts as they make up the majority of teachers in our state.  According to the Cleveland Teachers Union, 63% of those who will lose their job with the Cleveland City Schools are women.  The Department of Education states that 85,045.00 of the total 113,123.00 teachers in Ohio are women.  Defunding education certainly will have a negative impact on women and their families. Not much appreciation felt here.

Today, as we continue to face economic challenges, budget deficits, and competing requests for funds such as quality education for all, the public may begin to place blame and point to quick fixes.  But in the spirit of National Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s remember that our teachers are actually investing in Ohio and our children. Maybe the state should think about doing the same.

Republican Budget Cuts Responsible for More than 700 Teacher Layoffs this Week Alone

State Representatives Denise Driehaus and Mike Foley urged the Republican legislature and Gov. Kasich to take a serious look at the Kids and Communities First Fund announced by House Democrats this week.  The fund would help offset historically deep budget cuts after the layoff of more than 700 teachers that was disclosed over the course of two days.

Cleveland City Schools announced that 508 teaching positions would be lost at the end of this year while another 200 teachers take retirement packages.  The district will also shorten the school day and cut music and arts programs.  These layoffs come even as the district will place a $65 million levy on the ballot in the fall to close the budget hole created by the $59 million the district will lose due to state budget cuts. Additionally, the Cleveland Teachers Union agreed to a 5.6 – 6 percent pay cut for next year.  [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/17/12]

“These kinds of cuts will only continue statewide if we do not take action to curb Gov. Kasich’s massive budget cuts.  This week’s news is incredibly disheartening,” said Rep. Foley. “While unemployment rates slowly go down more than 700 teachers were laid off this week in two of the state’s largest districts.”

Cincinnati City Schools, the highest ranked urban district in the state, announced 237 teacher layoffs this week due to $43 million dollars in budget cuts.  The district says the layoffs are due to funding cuts. Cincinnati City Schools faces a projected deficit of more than $53 million ($53,868,502) in fiscal year 2013 and a frightening $115 million ($115,099,388) in fiscal year 2014.  Julie Sellers, President of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer as saying, “This year already most of our grievances were about overloaded classrooms…” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/18/12]

“These layoffs will not only hurt our children’s education and future, they will hurt the families of those losing jobs, predominantly women,” said Rep. Driehaus. “Gov. Kasich’s policies are bad for economic development and bad for women.  Our communities deserve better, but unfortunately we’re seeing that women and families are being disproportionally affected. I urge my Republican colleagues and Gov. Kasich to put partisan politics aside and do what is right for our children and their teachers by passing the Kids and Communities First Fund.”

This week, House Democrats announced the Kids and Communities First Fund will be offered as an amendment to Gov. Kasich’s Mid-Biennium Review (HB 487).  This fund will help keep teachers in the classroom and cops and firefighters on the streets in communities all across Ohio. Additionally, this fund will help curb the growing need for local tax levies due to state budget cuts and provide relief for local property taxpayers. The fund will make up to $400 million available this year from surplus revenue (currently $265 million), a portion of the Budget Stabilization Fund ($120 million), and $15 million from Gov. Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase.  The fund would be replenished after fiscal year 2013 by increased severance tax revenue.

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Relief Fund for Schools and Communities Proposed by House Lawmakers

Ohio House Democratic lawmakers announced a new proposal today to help offset the impacts of last year’s historically deep state budget cuts to schools and local communities.  The Kids & Communities First Fund uses surplus revenue to make up to $400 million available to schools and communities this year, and another $500 million once Gov. John Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase takes effect.  

“The Kids and Communities First Fund will help keep teachers in the classroom, and cops and firefighters on the streets in communities all across Ohio,” said House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D–Beachwood). “Additionally, this fund will help curb the growing need for local tax levies due to state budget cuts and provide relief for local property taxpayers.”

The Kids and Communities First Fund will be offered as an amendment to Gov. Kasich’s Mid-Biennium Review (HB 487).  The fund will make up to $400 million available this year from surplus revenue (currently $265 million), a portion of the Budget Stabilization Fund ($120 million), and $15 million from Gov. Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase.  The fund would be replenished after fiscal year 2013 by increased severance tax revenue.

“It’s been 15 years since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that our school funding system is unconstitutional because it relies too heavily on local property taxes,” said State Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Albany).  “Today, instead of finding ways to reduce this over-reliance, the state of Ohio is walking away from that responsibility and leaving the burden of educating our children squarely on the backs of local property taxpayers.”

Lawmakers calculated that districts are facing a combined school-funding deficit of over $1.79 billion in fiscal year 2014.  This is based on a calculation of each school district’s five-year projection of finances, which is required to be submitted to the Ohio Department of Education.  Policy Matters Ohio also estimates that school districts in “Fiscal Watch” or “Fiscal Emergency” could spike by 300 percent this year, from 14 to 43.

“Stories of communities cutting or privatizing critical safety services and in some cases even considering dissolving all together are pouring in from across the state,” said State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati).  “If we don’t protect our communities, we undercut our economic recovery and hurt working and middle class families.”

Compared to fiscal year 2011, the state budget (HB 153) cut nearly $1.1 billion from communities last year.  Specifically, the Local Government Fund was cut by $463 million; state funding provided to offset previously eliminated business property taxes were cut by $492 million; and state funding provided to offset previously reduced utility property taxes were cut by $135 million.

“Failing to address last year’s deep budget cuts will hurt our schools and make Ohio less economically competitive.” said Rep. John P. Carney (D- Columbus).  “Doing nothing will keep forcing local taxes to go up and put more pressure on middle class Ohioans.” 

According to Matt Mayer, the former head of the conservative think-tank the Buckeye Institute, local property taxes have gone up in Ohio under Gov. Kasich because of state budget cuts.  In a recently published column, Mayer states, “net taxes on Ohioans have gone up under Governor Kasich, making our state even less competitive.”

“Our state is only as strong as our schools and our local communities,” State Rep. Matt Lundy (D- Elyria). “If we do nothing we will hurt our children’s education, weaken safety services in our communities and create even more pressure on local property taxpayers.”

The Kids & Communities First Fund would be available as early as July 2012, when the current fiscal year ends.  It would make up to $400 million available for schools and communities to apply for an emergency relief grant. After fiscal year 2013, the fund would be supported by the severance tax increase as proposed by Gov. Kasich and a portion of that funding would be available to protect local communities that are most affected by hydraulic fracturing though a local impact grant.

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