Schools Serving Very Poor Children Need Financial Assistance. Instead Ohio Beats Them Up.

Ohio operates a test-and-punish accountability scheme that ranks and rates schools and school districts, and punishes school districts whose scores are low.  All the while, the state has diminished its effort to support public education and equalize funding.

In mid-September, for example, the state released school report cards awarding schools and school districts letter grades—“A” through “F.”  Like two other districts recently taken over by the state after receiving a series of “F” grades, East Cleveland will be seized by the state and assigned a state-appointed overseer CEO to replace its school superintendent and an appointed commission to replace the local school board.  East Cleveland—an economically and racially segregated inner-ring Cleveland suburban school district—is among Ohio’s very poorest.  Historically the residents in the community have voted high millage relative to their incomes to pay for their public schools despite the closure of local industry and the collapse of the economy.  The school districts in two other impoverished communities, Youngstown and Lorain, were taken over in recent years without a subsequent rise in test scores, the state’s chosen metric. Both received “F” grades again this year. The implementation of state takeover has been insensitive and insulting. Ohio’s Plunderbund reported in March that Krish Mohip, the state overseer CEO in Youngstown, feels he cannot safely move his family to the community where he is in charge of the public schools. He has also been openly interviewing for other jobs. Lorain’s CEO, David Hardy tried to donate the amount of what would be the property taxes on a Lorain house to the school district, when he announced that he does not intend to bring his family to live in Lorain.

EdChoice vouchers are a second high stakes punishment in the school attendance zones of “F”-rated schools. EdChoice gives families the opportunity to opt their children out of “failing” public schools by granting their children a chance to leave at public expense.  Writing for the Heights Observer, Susan Kaeser describes how this works in another Cleveland inner-ring suburban school district: “Access to EdChoice vouchers is tied to Ohio’s deeply flawed education accountability system.  If the aggregate test score data for an individual public school falls short, the school is defined as an EdChoice school.  Anyone residing in the attendance area of that school who could have attended that school is eligible for an EdChoice voucher… Nearly every district that has EdChoice designation serves many high-need students.”

Most students using EdChoice vouchers in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District which Kaeser describes are attending religious schools, and in fact real estate companies have been marketing houses in the state-designated neighborhoods as qualifying for EdChoice vouchers. Children can qualify for one of these vouchers as Kindergartners, without ever attending or intending to enroll in the public school that anchors the neighborhood. As Kaeser explains, “Once a student receives a voucher it can be renewed until the student graduates… Voucher use has grown exponentially as more schools were designated EdChoice and as recipients renew their vouchers.  This year, 176 Kindergarten students received first-time vouchers (without previously enrolling in a public school), adding to the total of more than 650 recipients.  The expected loss to the CH-UH district this year from EdChoice is $3.7 million….”  The rapid expansion of this program is fiscally unsustainable.

In a paywalled, September 14, 2018, On The Money report, a legislative update from the Hannah News Service, the Ohio Education Policy Institute school finance expert, Howard Fleeter tracks the impact statewide of Ohio’s EdChoice vouchers. Over the ten years since the program’s inception, it has grown from 3,100 to 22,153 students.  Fleeter explains: “EdChoice vouchers are worth up to $4,650 for students in grades K-8 and up to $6,000 for students in grades 9-12.”  He continues, explaining that while the money ostensibly comes from the state, EdChoice is “funded through a ‘district deduction’ system… The deduction system means that the voucher student is counted in the district of residence’s Formula ADM (Average Daily Membership) and then the voucher is paid for by deducting the voucher amount from the district’s state aid.  This can often result in a district seeing a deduction for the voucher greater than the state aid that was received for that student, meaning that the district is in effect subsidizing the voucher program.”  While in FY 2007, $10,368,839 was spent statewide for EdChoice vouchers.  By FY 2017, the amount statewide had climbed to $102,688,259.  Over the decade, a total of $649,158,483 of state and local tax dollars was diverted from public schools to private school tuition through EdChoice vouchers.

All of Ohio’s school districts where students qualify for EdChoice vouchers are districts serving very poor children. And yet, last month in a new report Howard Fleeter explains: “(R)esidential taxpayers in the low wealth districts are paying taxes at nearly the same rate as are their higher wealth counterparts… The Tax Effort measure shows that when ability to pay is taken into account, the low wealth districts are levying taxes at the highest rate relative to their income, while the highest wealth districts are levying taxes at the lowest rate relative to income.”  Fleeter continues: “(T)he lowest wealth… districts have seen their share of total state and local resources fall from 26.4% in FY99 to 23.1% in FY19, while the highest wealth… school districts have seen their share of total state and local resources increase from 22.2% in FY99 to 23.4% in FY19.  Unsurprisingly… a variety of equity measures indicate that equity in state and local school operating revenues improved from FY99 to FY 09, but regressed somewhat from FY09 to FY19.”

When he was interviewed by Jim Siegel for the Columbus Dispatch, Fleeter was less technical and more candid about the state’s school funding formula: “The formula itself is kind of just spraying money in a not-very-targeted way.”

Siegel reminds readers about the impact of the 2008 Great Recession, compounded by state tax cuts promoted by Governor John Kasich and passed by the legislature: “GOP leaders… eliminated the tangible personal property tax, which more than a decade ago generated about $1.1 billion per year for schools.  For a time, state officials reimbursed schools for those losses, but that has largely been phased out… And finally, there are Gov. John Kasich’s funding formula and fiscal priorities, including income-tax cuts that have meant an estimated $3 billion less in available revenue each year… Kasich crafted a new formula designed to drive funding to districts with the least ability to raise their own local funds, but Fleeter and public education officials have argued that it doesn’t quite work properly.”

Through various schemes to privatize education—EdChoice and several other voucher programs along with a large charter school sector—Governor Kasich and the Republican legislature have found another method, in addition to the flawed school funding formula, to divert needed state dollars out of public schools across the state.  State takeovers of struggling school districts and EdChoice vouchers are the clearest examples in state policy of punitive, top down programs that blame and punish local educators in poor communities instead of driving resources and support to communities serving concentrations of children in poverty.

Once again, it is appropriate to quote Harvard’s Daniel Koretz explaining in The Testing Charade just how high stakes, test-based accountability blames and punishes schools that face the overwhelming challenge of student poverty:  “One aspect of the great inequity of the American educational system is that disadvantaged kids tend to be clustered in the same schools. The causes are complex, but the result is simple: some schools have far lower average scores—and, particularly important in this system, more kids who aren’t ‘proficient’—than others. Therefore, if one requires that all students must hit the proficient target by a certain date, these low-scoring schools will face far more demanding targets for gains than other schools do. This was not an accidental byproduct of the notion that ‘all children can learn to a high level.’ It was a deliberate and prominent part of many of the test-based accountability reforms… Unfortunately… it seems that no one asked for evidence that these ambitious targets for gains were realistic. The specific targets were often an automatic consequence of where the Proficient standard was placed and the length of time schools were given to bring all students to that standard, which are both arbitrary.” (pp. 129-130)

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Ohio School Funding Falls Below Inflation Over Past Decade, Funding Gaps Remain Between Rich and Poor

It is a reality across America that when state and local school revenues are combined, the school districts serving our society’s wealthiest children continue to have the most money to spend on teachers and curriculum and enrichment while the school districts serving our poorest children have the least resources.  It has also been confirmed again and again that when poverty is concentrated—that is when a high percentage of children in a school are very poor—the school’s financial needs are much greater.

Surely it should not surprise us, then, that in a new report, Howard Fleeter, an economist and school funding analyst at the Ohio Education Policy Institute, demonstrates that in Ohio, in the twenty years since the Ohio Supreme Court found Ohio’s school funding unconstitutional and Ohio revised its funding formula, more money continues to be invested in the education of students in wealthy suburbs than in poorer rural and urban schools. Fleeter begins the report with a bit of background: “After the first Supreme Court ruling in the DeRolph lawsuit on March 24, 1997, a state panel was assembled to review and revise Ohio’s school funding formula.  FY1999 was the first year that new formula was implemented.”

Fleeter examines funding in 604 of the state’s school districts by separating Ohio’s school districts into quintiles based on the local property tax base in each district.  He finds that over two decades, revenue has increased for all Ohio school districts, but the nuances are far more complicated: “First, there is a pronounced trend in each of the two 10-year periods after DeRolph showing that the largest increases in local revenues were in the wealthiest school districts, while the smallest increases were in the poorest school districts… Second, there is a very stark difference in the pattern of state aid from FY99 to FY09 vs. that from FY09 to FY19. From FY99 to FY09 the inflation adjusted state average increase in per pupil state resources was $870 per pupil, while there was a -$64 pupil inflation-adjusted decrease in state resources per pupil during the FY09 to FY19 time frame… Finally,, in terms of total state and local resources… the first 10 years after the DeRolph ruling was responsible for the bulk of the increase in total resources apparent since FY99.”

Covering Fleeter’s new report, the Columbus Dispatch‘s Jim Siegel explains why state funding increased in the first decade after the decision and then dropped in the most recent decade after the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009.  State policies over the decade have further intensified what the recession began: “GOP leaders also eliminated the tangible personal property tax, which more than a decade ago generated about $1.1 billion per year for schools. For a time, state officials reimbursed schools for those losses, but that has largely been phased out…. And finally, there are Gov. John Kasich’s funding formula and fiscal priorities, including income-tax cuts that have meant an estimated $3 billion less in available revenue each year.”

Siegel quotes Fleeter in an interview about the new report: “Clearly, he (Gov. Kasich) has prioritized reducing the income tax and has done that at every possibility. Those revenues, if we had them, would go a long way toward making (the numbers) look different.”  Fleeter also tells Siegel that Governor Kasich’s school funding formula has made funding less equitable: “The formula itself is kind of just spraying money in a not-very-targeted way.”

And the problem isn’t that poor local school districts are failing to try to pass their local levies and do their part locally.  Fleeter’s report explores the role of local tax effort across school districts: “(T)he wealthiest school districts… have the lowest tax effort… and the poorest school districts in Ohio… have the second highest tax effort…. The Tax Effort measure shows that when ability to pay is taken into account, the low wealth districts are levying taxes at the highest rate relative to their income, while the highest wealth districts are levying taxes at the lowest rate relative to income.”

For Ohio Statehouse News Jason Aubrey also interviews Fleeter about the new report and the problem of Ohio’s continuing over reliance on local property taxes. Fleeter tells Aubrey: “The poor districts, no matter how hard they try to get their voters to support levies, just can’t raise enough money.”  Aubrey demonstrates Fleeter’s analysis with an example from Franklin County: “Let’s say a low wealth district like Hamilton Local School District in Franklin County were to ask voters to pass a 1 mill levy.  Even if they did, the levy would not bring in as much money as if a high wealth district like Upper Arlington City Schools were to ask its voters to pass a 1 mill levy.  That’s because the property values are different in both areas.”

Fleeter’s new report concludes: “(W)hile state & local revenues have increased for all wealth quintiles, the lowest wealth districts still have lower total revenues per pupil than do the highest wealth districts… This is an indication that the funding gap between low wealth and high wealth districts has not been narrowed appreciably since the DeRolph decision.”

I Wonder if It Is Possible to Teach a Billionaire Heiress about Opportunity Cost

I learned about opportunity cost as a child, although I had no idea that was the lesson I was being taught. In the spring of 1957, my parents needed to replace our 1947 Dodge.  My sister and I begged my parents to buy a car with four doors, so that we wouldn’t have to scramble to get in the back seat, and my father agreed, finally.  But he said that my sister and I would have to pay for what he believed was an extravagant splurge by giving up our allowance for the rest of the year. I don’t imagine we paid for those car doors with seven months’ worth of our dime allowance, but we did learn that in our family where we didn’t have a lot of money, if you really wanted to buy something expensive, you’d probably have to give up something else.

Years later in college when, as an English major, I took Economics 101 as an elective, I was astonished to discover that economists had actually created a name for that rule my father insisted we practice in our family. Very early in the semester, my professor Robert Haveman, taught us the concept of opportunity cost.  He must have believed this is a very basic concept, because in his little economics textbook, The Market System, Professor Haveman describes it on the third page: “Only a few individuals and no societies possess the means to obtain all of the goods and services they desire. Most of us have to pick and choose…. The decision is much easier if family income increases, but choice is still necessary. The cost of the new item may be considered the loss of the opportunity to spend that income for other purposes. This is the opportunity cost principle applied to individual consumer behavior.” Haveman continues: “The same principle applies to societies because of the scarcity of means relative to ends.”

Betsy DeVos inherited a fortune from her father’s car-parts company, and I presume that in Betsy DeVos’s family economic choices were easier than in my family—without obvious lessons on opportunity cost.  Maybe there could be not merely one car with four doors, but instead several cars filling a garage with four doors. It has certainly become clear that, as our nation’s new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos doesn’t grasp Haveman’s definition of opportunity cost as the concept applies to societies—in this case to school finance.

It happened again last week when DeVos visited the public schools in Van Wert, Ohio. The day after her visit, she had an OpEd column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which she complimented Van Wert’s schools. But after a few paragraphs she quickly forgot about the schools she had visited and began pushing her one idea: parents in Van Wert need more choices.  Here is what her column said: “Van Wert is a good school district. It is meeting the needs of many students. Yet the parents or guardians of nearly 20 percent of students who live within Van Wert’s district lines choose to send their children to a nearby district or to a different option in Van Wert instead.  In doing so, these parents are seeking the education that’s best for their child…. Every parent should have that option.  School choice is pro-parent and pro-student.”  Ohio offers public school districts the option to participate in cross-district open enrollment, through which students can take their state aid to a neighboring school district.  Apparently Van Wert participates in open-enrollment, and some parents in Van Wert transport their children to a neighboring town, though there has been a huge argument in the Ohio press since DeVos’s column was published about whether 20 percent isn’t a highly exaggerated figure for Van Wert’s participation in that program.

Betsy DeVos’s column indicates, however, that she missed the “opportunity cost” lesson Van Wert’s parents and educators tried to teach her. Van Wert, a small town near the Indiana border, is different from the urban, inner-ring, Cleveland suburban school district where my children went through public schools, but we have one thing in common: Ohio’s problematic method of funding schools.  For all of the thirty years I’ve known this system, our legislature has been dominated by people who have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge never to vote to raise taxes; many of our legislators also take pride in being members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In Ohio, our legislature has set it up so that we do not have unvoted tax increases. All tax increases including school levies must by voted on at the polls. And… in the DeRolph school funding decision, the courts faulted Ohio’s school funding for being “overly reliant on local property tax.”  And… embedded in our state constitution is a local property tax freeze. Our tax freeze means that any school levy cannot ever generate more real dollars for a school district than on the day it passes.  If property appreciates in value, the state rolls back the voted millage to keep the levy amount flat.

This all means that when inflation naturally occurs, and the state fails to increase its contribution, parents in every school district must create and fund a political committee to go out and campaign for the needed tax increase. The levies sometimes fail, and the parents have to try again, and sometimes again and again.  But inflation keeps occurring and when levies fail, school nurses and librarians begin to cover several buildings, and students on high school football teams have to pay to play. When a levy finally passes, it is very often to get back what was lost—to bring back the librarian to every school library, to make football free, to reduce class size in Kindergarten back below 22 students. In this financial climate—the very definition of opportunity cost—it is difficult for a school district afford something new and glitzy, something like the championship robotics team Van Wert’s voters have managed to fund and that we all learned about last week when Betsy DeVos visited Van Wert.  I learned to understand this public example of opportunity cost back between 1988 and 1991 when I organized a grassroots, door-to-door campaign for three school levies—with 700 volunteers each time ringing doorbells to convince neighbors to vote “yes.”  Then in 1993, I co-chaired a successful levy campaign after two failed attempts. Across Ohio, school levy fights, to be successful, have to be constructed to pull the community together on behalf of the public—the community and all of its children.

Erica Green, the NY Times reporter who traveled to Van Wert to cover the Betsy DeVos school visit, listened carefully. While I know she does not have an in-depth understanding of the school funding complexities behind the comments she reports in her article, she captures some of the urgency of the parents and educators who described the dedication of the Van Wert community to its public schools. Green notes the community’s pride in having passed its levies. She describes what Linda Haycock, newly elected from western Ohio to the state school board said to Betsy DeVos: “Spending federal money or any other taxpayer funds on vouchers for private school tuition is looked on harshly… ‘really theft’…  ‘It’s saying we passed a levy to go to our school district, and it’s really going somewhere else.'”  And Green continues: “Van Wert educators said they believed their biggest threat was school choice. An expanded voucher program would be ‘potentially catastrophic’ for the district’s finances, said Mike Ruen, the district’s treasurer.”

Teachers and school administrators alike carefully explained what would be the implications for Van Wert of the federal budget cuts proposed by DeVos’s Department of Education. Green describes the early childhood literacy specialist telling Betsy DeVos about how any reallocation of Title I funding to support expansion of school choice would undermine a program that helps very poor children with early literacy. Green quotes the school superintendent telling DeVos, “We struggle every day to make ends meet.” Green reports that an elementary school principal told DeVos, “Our funding is the blood, sweat and tears of our community, and we are held accountable for that.”

The parents, teachers, superintendent, and school treasurer in Van Wert were explaining to Betsy DeVos the essence of Professor Haveman’s lesson on the public implications of opportunity cost: “Only a few individuals and no societies possess the means to obtain all of the goods and services they desire. Most of us have to pick and choose.” In Ohio, we already have some school choice and we don’t want it expanded.  Our long experiment with vouchers has meant that tax dollars are taken to support private school education. Charter schools—unregulated and out of control in our state—have created another drain on scarce public school resources. And, as we saw in Van Wert, there is also the option for school districts to participate in cross-district open enrollment. When Betsy DeVos preaches about giving all parents a choice to have the education services they desire, I wonder whether she actually understands that sending money away from the public schools to privatized alternatives removes essential services from the public schools that serve 90 percent of our society’s children.

In a recent column in the Appleton Post-Crescent in Wisconsin—another ALEC-dominated state, where Governor Scott Walker and the legislative majority also adhere to the anti-tax pledge Grover Norquist has encouraged them to sign—Jane Parish Yang, a member of the Fox City Advocates for Public Education, defines the meaning of the public—“how a nation comes into being by shared events and shared values, and how, in our case, a community comes into being with a ‘deep, horizontal comradeship’ and strength from all young people being educated in order to become productive citizens. The founding citizens of Wisconsin knew that shared, democratic values from a public education open to each and every student would be the basis for the community flourishing because of that shared experience. But what would those same founders make of present-day Wisconsin, in which a segment of the citizenry rejects public schools… and wishes to segregate itself within its own traditions but at public expense? That is what proponents of so-called school choice are asking the public to agree to: we choose, you pay.”

Ohio Punishes Poor School Districts with Low Rankings without Providing Needed Funds

Last week the Ohio Education Policy Institute, in research funded by the Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, once again documented that school districts serving a large number and high concentration of children in poverty scored lowest on the state’s standardized achievement tests and ranked poorly on other statistics being used by Ohio to measure academic success.  Although the state’s ratings remain primarily symbolic this year and will not affect most state policy, it is true that schools and school districts are being branded with low marks and that the state’s ranking of school districts affects the desirability of communities in the housing marketplace. The ultimate result is that the state’s ratings of schools are driving racial and economic segregation across Ohio’s metropolitan areas.

The Plain Dealer posted the data, whose implications reporter Patrick O’Donnell explains:  “Districts with less than 10 percent of students considered ‘economically disadvantaged’ graduate 97.4 percent of students while the poorest districts graduate 73.9 percent.  That’s a 23.5 percent difference—almost one out of every four students… Districts with the least poverty send nearly twice as many students to college as districts with the highest poverty—82.5 percent to 44.4 percent.”

Jim Siegel, reporter for the Columbus Dispatch, quotes Senator Peggy Lehner, chair of the Ohio Senate Education Committee: “If there’s one thing we ought to be pretty well convinced of at this point is that parents’ income makes a big difference on school performance.  But what to do about it is the big question.”

Howard Fleeter, an expert on public finance who conducted the analysis for the Ohio Education Policy Institute, has discovered the same trend in previous years.  He told the Plain Dealer: “I feel a little like a broken record. But all we can do is keep shining a light on it.”  O’Donnell explains Fleeter’s reaction: “Fleeter said that it will be no surprise to anyone that more affluent kids go to college than poor kids. He said his findings are definitely ‘not earth-shattering.'”

Chris Woolard, who heads the accountability office at the Ohio Department of Education, does not seem concerned that marking poor communities with a “Scarlet F” on the school accountability ratings might be exacerbating the economic and racial segregation of school districts by encouraging families with means to move to an “A”-rated district: “‘These are aspirational measures that are pointing out a problem,’ Woolard said.  ‘Not all kids are leaving high school ready for college or work.’ By showing districts how many kids are not meeting the state’s goals, they now know what they have to work on, Woolard said. ‘What we’re really doing here is setting expectations,’ he said. ‘There are kids that may even be graduating in high poverty areas, but we’re setting expectations that when they do so, that they are ready for college or the workforce.'”

O’Donnell reminds readers that, “Though data on graduation rates and college readiness are shown on state report cards this year, schools and districts will not be graded on them until next year.”

What nobody seems to be thinking about is what the Plain Dealer described in late December about the plight of local governments in Ohio caused by a 10-year rash of state tax cuts that have diminished funds the state has in the past allocated for essential services. While the December report focused on municipalities, the implications of state tax cuts have also affected local school districts, particularly the school districts that serve many children in poverty. “The Local Government Fund was created in 1935, as a promise to Ohioans that their support of the state’s first sales tax would mean that 40 percent of collections would come back to local governments and schools,” but in 2011, Gov. John Kasich, faced with an $8 billion shortfall, proposed a state budget that cut 25 percent of local government funding the following year and 50 percent in 2013.  In 2005, former Governor Bob Taft and the legislature eliminated a tangible personal property tax on income and equipment that had helped fund municipal governments and school districts. They replaced it with a Commercial Activities Tax, which was then slashed by Governor Kasich and the legislature in 2011.  Then Governor Kasich folded into his 2011 budget a controversial abolition of the estate tax. And finally at the end of 2014, Kasich and the legislature “streamlined” Ohio’s income tax, a plan that will take effect in 2016 and further reduce state funding for municipalities and school districts.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Ohio is one of 31 states whose funding for public education remains below the 2008, pre-recession level.  CBPP explains further: “Property values fell sharply after the recession hit, making it difficult for local school districts to raise significant additional revenue through the property tax to make up for cuts in state funding… Local school districts can seek to raise property tax rates, but those increases are usually politically difficult and sometimes legally restricted.”  In Ohio, which does not permit school boards to raise local tax rates without a vote of the people, the school districts that serve Ohio’s poorest children have had the most difficult time raising voted millage from households that struggle to afford the cost.  CBPP reports that combined state and local funding per student in Ohio is 6.8 percent lower than it was in 2008.

Ohio’s school rating system is a classic example of blaming the victim and punishing the vulnerable. The letter “grades” for schools  and school districts published on the new state report cards not only encourage families with means to move to “A-rated,” wealthy communities that have the capacity to provide ample resources for their schools, but they make it harder for poor school districts by undermining trust and making it harder to pass school levies on election day.

This blog covered the relation between poverty and measured school achievement here.

Why Checks and Balances Need to Include the Courts

Just last week the Education Law Center, whose attorneys have litigated the landmark New Jersey school funding case in Abbott v. Burke, announced that the Education Law Center has “joined the legal teams in Maisto v. State of New York and Bacon v. NJ Department of Education, lawsuits on behalf of students in 8 Small City New York school districts and 16 poor, rural, New Jersey districts, respectively.  These cases challenge deep resource deficits and unconstitutionally low funding by each State, in violation of their state constitutions.”

It would be so nice to think that when school districts are short of money, citizens would raise their taxes to pay for what’s needed for the children. What does it say about our society that funding our schools has become deeply contentious?

According to the Education Law Center, the towns bringing the lawsuit in New York are Jamestown, Kingston, Mount Vernon, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, Port Jervis, Poughkeepsie, and Utica. Together they serve 55,000 students.  All have poverty rates over 50 percent; in at least one community the poverty rate is 94 percent. “All have low property wealth and income and have experienced substantial shortfalls and state cuts in school funding in recent years.”

In New Jersey, attorneys say that a remedial order from the New Jersey Department of Education in 2009 ordered that students in 16 rural districts be fully funded under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008.  The state has not complied.  David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center commented: “Governor Chris Christie’s stubborn resistance to investing in our children leaves no alternative but to take appropriate legal action.”  In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to promise tax cuts as part of his platform for reelection this coming November.

Being free from such court oversight to enforce the mandates of a state constitution appeals to Chad Readler, a Columbus, Ohio attorney who chairs Ohio’s Constitutional Modernization Commission.  Readler is also, according to Karen Kesler of StateImpact Ohio, the chairman of the Ohio Alliance of Public Charter Schools.  Kesler updates earlier reports that Readler’s goal is to have the Constitutional Modernization Commission remove protection for school funding from Ohio’s constitution by deleting this clause: “The General Assembly shall provide and fund a thorough and efficient system of common school throughout the state.” Kesler quotes Readler:  “That language has been used as a vehicle to take those disputes to court and have judges set our education policy rather than boards of education and legislatures.  And in my mind that’s a concern.  I think that boards of education and legislatures are better equipped to address education policy issues.”  (This blog most recently posted on the Ohio controversy here.)

Kesler interviews members of the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House serving on the Constitutional Modernization Commission who agree with Readler and want to remove the language that makes school funding justiciable in Ohio.  They say they want the Ohio Constitution to protect school choice instead.  Kesler also quotes Charlie Wilson, a professor at the college of law at the Ohio State University, who “fears if that language is removed, there would be no right to public education in Ohio, because the U.S. Supreme court has already held that education is not a federal fundamental right and has left it to the states.” Wilson comments, “If there’s not some kind of enforcement mechanism, then it’s very easy for the General Assembly to ignore the Constitution, and then you get to the question of why even bother having a Constitution.”