Monday, July 2, 2007

Amendment Supporters Predict Failure to Qualify

First heard from Pho's Akron Pages:

The "Getting It Right For Ohio's Future" team (GIRFOF), the folks who have been driving the campaign to get the proposed school funding amendment on the November ballot, announced today that they did not think sufficient signatures would be collected to qualify.

I have not been a fan of this proposed amendment, for two primary reasons. First is that it takes a good deal of control from the people of the local school district and the elected representatives and places it in the hands of panels appointed at the state level. This is not a solution because the system for allocating state funding has never been the problem. It's that the General Assembly repeatedly has failed to fund schools to the level the current formula requires. We can't fix that problem with an amendment, as the General Assembly can refuse to fund a new system as well.

But my primary complaint has been the misdirection of the conversation by the groups who authored and support the amendment -- the educators themselves. They want us to think this conversation is about Johnny in some dilapidated school in Appalachia not having his own desk.

It's not. The key cost in the operation of a school district is the salaries and benefits of the teachers, administrators and staff -- typically 80% or more of total (it's 87% in Hilliard). This amendment is all about placing control of the funding that pays those salaries in the hands of the State Board of Education, and putting this funding at the head of the line at budget time.

GIRFOF has not actually withdrawn the amendment proposal; they've just said that it looks like they won't get enough signatures by August 8th, when the petitions must be submitted to the Secretary of State (only 150,000 have been collected of the 400,000 required). But who knows, maybe this announcement will motivate rather than demotivate the volunteer solicitors (mostly teachers and administrators), and they'll get the job done.

The debate would have been interesting had this amendment proposal qualified. But not nearly enough people would pay attention to the debate or investigate for themselves. For that reason alone, I'm glad it's not likely to appear on the ballot.

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