Saturday, April 19, 2008

Information Sessions

Notice of these two meetings was published as a comment in another posting, and deserves to be repeated:

  • Representative Ted Celeste, who represents a significant portion of the Hilliard City School District, wants to hear from Hilliard School District residents on educational issues facing our community.
    What: Community Forum on Public Education
    When: Monday, April 28 at 7 pm (ironically, the same date/time as the School Board meeting)
    Where: Hilliard Crossing Elementary, 3340 Hilliard Rome Rd

  • School Funding Basics: ACT for Schools Presentation

    What: “School Funding Basics.” Residents of the Hilliard City School District are invited to attend “School Funding Basics,” an informational meeting to learn more about how school funding works in Ohio and its implications to the Hilliard City Schools community.

    Who: Presented by ACT for Schools (Advocate, Collaborate, Teach), a school district volunteer community committee

    When: Wednesday, April 30, 20087:00 PM

    Where: J.W. Reason Elementary School, 4790 Cemetery Road

    Why must so many Ohio school districts be on the ballot so often? Residents will have the opportunity to learn why during the “School Funding Basics” presentation. ACT committee members will explain how school funding works in the state of Ohio and how the Hilliard City Schools community is impacted. There will be opportunity for questions at the end of the presentation.

I have my doubts that the ACT Committee will actually "explain how school funding works" because they will almost surely espouse the official party line, which can be summed up as: "everything would be hunky-dory if the General Legislature would just obey the Ohio Supreme Court and come up with a completely new funding system that doesn't depend on property taxes."

Please understand that the people who are really powering the argument for school funding reform are the teachers' and employees' unions, and in this case the teachers, employees and the school administrators are on the same side. While stories of the truly needy districts are trotted out every time school funding reform is mentioned, the real objective is to create a funding system which automatically escalates funding with the ever-increasing salary and benefits costs associated with running a school district.

Both the administrators and teachers want to get rid of this system we have which requires the district leadership to periodically ask the community for more money in the form of a levy. They want to take that choice away from us and by doing so relieve them of the burden to justify their spending.

If a new school funding system is developed in Ohio, do we think there is any chance that the aggregate amount of funding to schools will diminish? Of course not - it will certainly increase in the aggregate.

And what are the chances that the additional dollars allocated to school funding will take away money from other programs funded by the state government (e.g. Medicaid)? Don't you think any new school funding will have to depend on additional taxes of some sort - income, sales, corporate?

The key question is if we believe Hilliard will be a net winner in a new funding paradigm. If new school dollars comes from new tax dollars, will our state school funding go up more than our taxes increase?

I see little chance of this. This is only my opinion of course, but what other conclusion can be reached when Hilliard is considered one of the more affluent districts in the state? Haven't we already seen our state funding flatlined so that more money can be doled out to the less affluent districts? Why would we think that a new funding algorithm would treat us any better?

The basic facts are simple: new homes produce more cost than revenue for the schools (bad thing), while new businesses produce revenue and no cost for the schools (good thing). These two components must be kept in balance. We in Hilliard have enjoyed a long history of these two components being nearly equal, and that allowed us to build a great school district with modest property taxes.

But in the past decade, thousands of homes have been built in our district, and thousands of additional kids have started attending our schools. Without commensurate business growth, the cost burden of educating those kids has fallen on the residential homeowners, manifested by the need for an additional permanent property tax levy every 3-4 years.

The collapse of the housing market gives us the opportunity to take a breath and get ahead of this problem. But not if our school leadership isn't willing to take bold action, and break out of their "we've always done it this way" mode. They need to:

  • Oppose (not support!) the Getting It Right For Ohio's Future proposed amendment, and any like it until the backers of the proposed amendment answer the question as to whether it will be a net winner or net loser for Hilliard. I bet the latter.
  • Quit blaming our funding problems on the state government and instead figure out what we need to do to fix things locally - within our school district.
  • Lobby the legislature for Impact Fees as a funding option. This can do more to fix our funding problems that any other option being considered. Impact Fees would take away no money from the struggling districts, and give us a powerful tool for ensuring that growth is adequately funded.
  • Demand a seat on the Big Darby Accord council of elected officials so that the needs of the school district - which spans the boundaries of many municipal jurisdictions - are heard. It is not the purview of the Hilliard mayor to speak for the school district when a minority of the kids lives in the Hilliard city limits.

Hope to see you at these presentations.


  1. Paul, I think you are right on the money about the ACT group, and where they will be coming from. I hope people understand the union's perspective, as it is the driving force in the cost escalation, that has become the levy fatigue, that IS at the heart of Ohio's school funding crisis. You can't compensate teachers (salary, annual increases, insurance, retirement) so much more than the average community member... forever, because at some point the average community member simply can't afford it any longer. That is approximately where we are now, in my opinion.

  2. Not counting school officials, about 30 people attended the ACT presentation tonight. I didn't perceive this presentation as being much different from one the ACT committee did in 2005.

    Once again, they failed to tell the basic story. School funding isn't hard to understand in principle. Yes, there are a lot of details, but the basic idea is quite straightforward.

    Come on school leaders! We have a whole army of professional educators in our district. Can't we ask one of them to come up with a way to tell the story instead of leaving that duty to a few well-meaning but unprepared community members?

    ACT Committee members: I have prepared a financial presentation, and have even tried it out on a couple of occasions with community members - to positive reviews. I'd be happy to show it to you if you want.

  3. During the Q&A, did you happen to ask why they are against Impact Fees if only to get them on record?

  4. I don't really think they're opposed to impact fees, they just never thought of it as an option. They don't know how to get out of the box drawn for them by the school leadership.

    That's why I offered to do a tutorial for them on this stuff. We'll see if they accept.