Saturday, February 28, 2009

Devil in the Details

The sheen is beginning to dull on the new education plan Governor Strickland put forward a month ago today.

On the front page of today's Columbus Dispatch was a story headlined "School plan may be short by $1 billion."

The point of the argument is – now this will surprise you – what number should be used for teacher salaries. The Dispatch says the Governor's evidence-based model uses $45,094 for the average teacher salary (before benefits), while apparently everyone else says it is more like $54,210. Seems to be a problem with the evidence.

The Ohio Department of Education publishes a number of statistics about school operations in its "Cupp Report" available on the ODOE website. One of those statistics is the average salary for each district. Statewide, the minimum average is $32,350 (Bettsville LSD, where my kid happens to live), the maximum average is $72,265 (Orange CSD in Cuyahoga County), and the median average is $48,393 (half the districts are lower, and half higher).

The critics of the Governor's number say he is using the average of the averages, which according to the data in the Cupp report is $49,265, not the $45,094 stated in the article. So I don't know where the Governor's number comes from, but using the average of a set of averages is poor statistical analysis.

The problem, as every third grader knows, is that you can't add two fractions with different denominators, and that's what these percentages are. If school district X has 200 teachers making an average of $40,000, and school district Y has 500 teachers making an average of $50,000, then you can't add $40,000 and $50,000, then divide by 2, and declare $45,000 to be the average salary for all 700 teachers.

The correct calculation is ((200x$40K)+(500*$50K))/700=$47,143. And this is the calculation error that 'everyone else' is apparently complaining about, according to the Dispatch article. It could be that there is some merit in their argument; when I do the appropriate calculation using the Cupp data, the true average comes out to $52,584.

The Governor has another twist in his numbers – he counted the salaries of charter school teachers in his average of averages as well. That's got to really annoy the teachers' union – the Ohio Education Association. They would prefer that charter schools not exist at all, and now to have the lower wages typically paid to charter school teachers pull down their average?!

At the end of the day, the Governor's new plan has the same limitations as the current system – the State doesn't have enough money to fully fund it. And it seems to me that the new plan has some philosophical problems as well, in that 24 of 50 poorest districts in the State would have a funding cut!

The politics will be interesting to watch. In this economic climate, the Governor isn't going to be able to just pull $1 billion more out of thin air. I suspect his greater worry is the rapidly eroding revenue base as more and more businesses contract and lay off workers. I wonder if the solution he and the General Assembly produces will satisfy all parties sufficiently to avoid another trip through the court system, arguing a different legal theory.

Of course, the parties that need to be satisfied are primarily the teachers union, who is fighting for increased pay and benefits at a time when a lot of us are glad to just have a job, and secondarily the administrators and school boards who have to figure out how to come up with the local portion of the funding burden.

Left out of that appears to be the taxpayer, to whom the question seems to be: "so which do you want to pay more of: state income tax or local property tax?"

I suspect the education community believes the answer should be 'yes' to both.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meeting Notice

March 2, 2009, 6:45-8:15pm
Hilliard Public Library Meeting Room.

We are at a critical juncture in the development of our group, one where we are understandably balancing the daily activities of our lives with the involvement necessary to move forward in the process. We need to have a realistic discussion of the depth and intensity of our commitment.

If you want to see this effort continue, please show up in support, with the intent to participate in the discussion, and hopefully in future activities. There is much work to be done!

Additionally at this meeting, we want to discuss viable candidates and the campaign process for the November School Board election. If you are interested in running for School Board this Fall as one of our candidates, please drop a note to Paul prior to the meeting, and, if possible, come to the meeting and participate in the discussion.

Past meeting summaries can be viewed via the GrassRootsGoup topic on the left.

Note: This is not an official meeting of the Hilliard City School District, nor is it being coordinated with school officials, although members of the Administration, Board and Staff are more than welcome to participate. No need to RSVP.

Contact Mark Morscher if you have further questions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

EdWeek: Layoff Policies Said to Hurt Teacher Effectiveness

I came across this article by Education Week writer Stephen Sawchuk, and thought it merited dissemination. I have written frequently about the absurdity of adjusting the labor costs of a school district by laying off new teachers instead of ineffective teachers. I think it's healthy to see this discussion take place in what is arguably the most widely read publication among professional


Donald Nicolas' former principal was contrite when she came to his classroom last year to tell him that he was being let go. Despite his students’ high test scores, the Leon County, Fla., district’s staffing plan demanded staff reductions—and the local contract required the principal to pare nontenured teachers from the rolls first.

With the growing financial strain on districts putting more novices in Mr. Nicolas' unenviable position, researchers and policymakers have begun to question the human-capital costs of "last hired, first fired" layoff policies.

Such layoffs, those experts argue, do not consider teacher effectiveness, meaning that teachers who make vital contributions to school success can nevertheless be among those to receive pink slips.

"There could have been better decisions," contends Mr. Nicolas, who now teaches at the Imagine School at Evening Rose, a charter school in Tallahassee, Fla. "New teachers feel like they’re not protected."

Seniority-based layoffs are the norm for the profession. According to a database maintained by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based group that advocates stronger state teacher-quality policies, all but five of the nation’s 25 largest school districts follow seniority-based layoff policies set by contracts or state law. And all but one of those five is located in a right-to-work state without mandatory collective bargaining for teachers.

Typically, layoffs—frequently referred to in contracts as reductions in force, or RIFs—are enforced within teachers’ certification areas. If a district needs to cut high school social studies teachers, for instance, it cuts from the bottom of the high school social studies seniority list until the budget has been balanced. Then, it will redeploy the remaining teachers as necessary the following school year.

Teacher-quality experts have questioned the place of seniority in other personnel decisions, such as the pay and transfer of teachers, but layoff policies have attracted a lesser degree of scrutiny. In fact, some districts that now disallow seniority-based transfers, such as Rochester, N.Y., do not have a similar policy in place for layoffs.

"I think people assumed that revenue for schools could only go up, that the economy would never get so bad again that we’d have to have layoffs," said Timothy Daly, the president of the New Teacher Project, a Washington-based nonprofit that trains new teachers and supports changes to districts' personnel practices. "Nobody changed the rules or even talked about them since the 1980s. I honestly think the [poor economic] situation has caught people by surprise."

A Costly Practice?

Since then, however, firm evidence has emerged to identify high-quality teaching as the single most important school-level factor for improving student achievement. Now, critics argue that seniority-based RIF policies not only fail to take teachers’ effectiveness into account, but they also necessitate the cutting of more teachers than seniority-neutral layoff policies, hurting both teachers and students in the process.

Using data from an urban district with a seniority-based layoff policy, Marguerite Roza, a research associate professor at the college of education at the University of Washington in Seattle, calculated that an overall cut of 9 percent to salary expenditures would force a cut of 13 percent of the workforce in that unnamed district, because of newer teachers’ lower salaries.

Layoffs that cut deep into the ranks of novices, Ms. Roza said in an interview, also negatively affect those teachers who remained in schools by sticking them with larger class sizes and potentially forcing them to work in grades in which they may be certified, but have little actual experience.

"We're moving teachers around and fragmenting the experience for the kids, and class sizes go up even more because we’re protecting seniority,” she said. "We’re not making a decision that’s in the best interest of kids."

But alternatives to seniority-based layoffs have been tied up in the knotty question about how to evaluate teachers’ performance in a fair, uniform way, researchers and union officials say.

Many teachers and their unions, for instance, oppose using "value added" models that purport to estimate a teacher’s effect on student learning for high-stakes purposes. Alternative methods of evaluating teacher performance—including the peer-assistance and -review model used in Toledo, Ohio, and several other districts—aren’t yet widespread.

"We're mindful of the fact that there are old issues that we have to address sooner rather than later, but at this point, seniority is the only fair way [of determining layoffs] because without an effective way of monitoring principals, we don’t know whether their selection process would be accurate," said A.J. Duffy, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, a merged affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers that is bracing for layoffs this school year. "We are willing to discuss revamping the evaluation of teachers, if that is accompanied with a discussion on the evaluation process of administrators."

Principals frequently lack the tools to make appropriate personnel decisions, added Robin Chait, a senior policy analyst at the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank, who co-wrote a recent article on seniority-based layoffs.

"In some ways, [seniority] might be easier for them,” she said. "Their hands are tied."

Handful of Exceptions

A handful of district contracts with seniority-based RIF policies do grant exceptions to those rules under certain circumstances. In Philadelphia, layoffs must proceed by seniority unless doing so would throw off the racial balance of staff members in a school, for instance.

In Los Angeles, district officials can exempt teachers who fall into high-shortage subjects from layoffs. For instance, most new teachers hold certifications for teaching English-language learners within their credentials.

"We are looking into the matter to determine what if any effect certification will have on the seniority issue in laying people off," said Mr. Duffy, who noted that about 1,000 veteran teachers lack the ELL endorsement.

Other districts and teachers’ unions have struck agreements to forgo contracted raises to keep all teachers on the payroll. Teachers in Montgomery County, Md., will not receive the 5.3 percent cost-of-living increase promised them under the current contract, but are now guaranteed to keep their current health benefits for several years, said Bonnie Cullison, the president of the Montgomery County Education Association, an NEA affiliate.

Ms. Cullison linked the decision to relinquish raises to the district’s peer-assistance and -review program that helps novices find their footing.

"The support we provide for our new educators is intensive," she said. "We put a lot of investment in them, so if we’re losing them, the county is losing that investment."

Fights Ahead

Although the recently completed federal economic-stimulus package could cushion the blow somewhat, its state-stabilization fund authorizes a number of activities, such as school modernization, that could compete with keeping teachers on board. As a result, the the extent to which the current fiscal crisis could force districts to consider revisiting layoff policies remains unknown.

Hard-hit districts could take advantage of contract clauses allowing them to reopen bargaining in times of hardship, much as Montgomery County officials did last year. But that is an unnerving prospect for some teachers.

"I'm strongly in favor [of renegotiating contracts] so when the next recession comes, we don’t have this same mess," said John E. Thompson, a 10th grade history teacher at Centennial High School in Oklahoma City and a frequent commentator on education policy blogs, in an interview. "But I have a feeling that renegotiating seniority for this recession would not be a smart move. ... [Teachers] would have a very fair complaint: 'They changed the rules on me.' "

Such conflicts will likely be inescapable in other venues, such as in New York City, where Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced plans to cut 15,000 teachers.

Joel I. Klein, the district’s superintendent, said in a recent television interview with ABC News in New York City that cuts should first be made to the pool of teachers who have been "excessed," or removed from their schools but kept on the city payroll, rather than from among the ranks of new teachers the city has aggressively recruited through Teach For America and other alternative-route programs. ("Teacher Gap’ Shrinking in N.Y.C.," June 16, 2008.)

In contrast, Randi Weingarten, the head of the United Federation of Teachers, advocates voluntary buyouts and a hiring freeze to minimize layoffs. That plan would likely require the city to use excessed teachers for any open positions.

In Tallahassee, Mr. Nicolas is free of immediate fears for his job. His charter school is actually hiring for next year, and its personnel decisions in any case are based on performance rather than seniority. But he worries about his former colleagues who still teach in nonchartered district schools, where officials have warned about additional cuts.

"I don’t know if it’s the union’s responsibility or the district’s to look at [layoff policies]," he said, "but I just think there has to be a better way.


PL: Our school district has this "last in, first out" layoff policy as well. But please understand that it is dictated by the teachers' union itself, not the School Board or the Administration. Just as it is said that winners get to write history, in unions, it is the senior members who negotiate contracts, and their primary motivation in these negotiations is not necessarily what's good for young teachers, and certainly not what's best for the kids or the people of the community.

The Governor's new plan won't change this - each School Board will continue to negotiate with the district's unions on matters of compensation, benefits and personnel policies. I hope the young teachers in the district band together and make sure their voices are heard as well.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Who Won?

It's been a little over two weeks since the Governor announced his proposal for fixing public school funding in Ohio, and I haven't heard anyone say yet that they understand it.

On February 3, 2009, the Columbus Dispatch published a table that said Hilliard City Schools would get $35.6 million in state funding for FY10, and $38.2 million for FY11. The $35.6 million was portrayed to be a 1.9% increase in funding from FY09, implying that the FY09 funding was $34.9 million. However, the official SF-3 report from Ohio Department of Education says our current funding is $37.6 million. So why did the Dispatch report that we were getting an increase?

I don't know – I can only try to deduce some possibilities based on other evidence, as neither the Governor nor the Dept of Education have been forthcoming with the details of the calculations that will replace the current SF-3 formula. Someone knows them of course; otherwise the Office of Management and Budget couldn't have come up this district-by-district report of projected funding under the new plan (thanks to Marc Schare, School Board Member at Worthington Schools, for the link and the observation).

One possible reason for the difference is that Hilliard City Schools is currently "on the guarantee," which is a provision of the law passed during the Taft Administration which phased out Personal Property Tax for businesses. Since the main recipient of this tax was the school districts, the law guaranteed that as the PPT was phased out, school districts would be guaranteed to get state funding of an amount no less than they were getting before the PPT was eliminated. This guarantee for Hilliard, which is theoretically funded by the new Commercial Activity Tax collected by the State on the revenue of business, amounts to $3.6 million on the current SF-3.

In other words, if this $3.6 million guarantee were subtracted from the current $37.6 million in total funding, our current state funding would be $34 million – in the ballpark of the number implied above. Since this transitional aid guarantee exists to correct a technical issue in the current funding system, one could make an argument that an apples-to-apples comparison of the old system to the proposed system has to ignore this guarantee amount.

It would be a stupid argument of course. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what the individual component numbers are – it's the bottom line. And the bottom line is that we get $37.6 million from the state right now, and this Dispatch table says we would get $35.6 million in FY10 under the Governor's new plan. 
That sounds like a haircut to me.

But those aren't the only numbers floating around. The OMB report referenced above says that our FY10 funding will be $53.9 million, a whopping $19 million – 54% – increase over our current funding. In FY11 it would be increased 5% more to $56.7 million.

How is that even possible? Where will that kind of money come from?

You could argue that we've deserved this all along. After all, we've had tremendous growth in our district, from 12,005 students in 1999 to 15,150 at the end of FY08, while our state funding has been essentially flat. That growth has been entirely funded with local property taxes, which is why our tax bills skyrocketed. I think you could also say that had we been receiving this kind of money over the last decade or so, we wouldn't have needed so many local levies. At least not the last one, which raises just about $20 million per year.

I have been predicting for years that any fix the state government came up for the school funding formula would give us less money, not more. If these OMB numbers are true, I've been dead wrong. As we are listed on this report as a district of the most affluent kind ("very high median income, low poverty"), I expected the money to continue flowing from us toward the rural districts who are the poster children for what is supposedly wrong with the current system. However, Northern Local School District in Perry County, the point of origin for Derolph v. State of Ohio, the lawsuit which was before the Ohio Supreme Court when it ruled the current funding system to be unconstitutional, is getting an increase of only 27% ($3.2 million) in FY10, and a half-million more in FY11.

In fact, the Dispatch reported in a February 8 article that "The three poorest districts in Ohio, and 24 of the bottom 50 based on property value per pupil would suffer state funding cuts over the next two years." I sure that's not what these districts expected. But it may well be an indicator of the good job Governor Taft and the General Assembly did in addressing the funding balance problem that gave rise to DeRolph in the first place.

So what's going on?

Governor Strickland came to office having made a lot of promises to organized labor, as one would expect from a Democratic candidate. Arguably, the most powerful labor union in the state is the Ohio Education Association (OEA), representing teachers and other certified/licensed staff, followed closely by the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE). While the bulk of the population in the state may lie in the rural and urban areas, the money is in the suburbs. Politicians need votes to get elected, but they need money to run their campaigns. I suspect that a lot of that money comes from the well-paid suburban teachers and staff.

Could it be that the school employees in the suburban districts have come to realize that the people of the suburbs are just about tapped out, and that they told the Governor that if he wanted their continued campaign support, he had better do something about the crisis on the horizon?

So is this good for us – the citizens of our school district? Well, we have to start by saying that the State of Ohio, unlike the US Government, cannot just print money to fund programs. While a little money can be borrowed for specific purposes via the sale of bonds, for the most part a new dollar spent has to be underwritten by a new dollar of tax collected. There's no way the Governor can pay for his new school funding program by increasing the tax burden on Ohio's citizens and businesses.

That's where the other side of his plan comes to light. Although the details are not clear, his plan has "incentives" for local school districts to reconfigure their portfolio of revenue-producing levies such that the amount collected locally is reduced, while simultaneously being converted to a form that allows your tax bill to go up with the appraised value of your property. So if the Governor needs to raise say the state income tax to pay for this, our property taxes should be reduced enough to offset some or all of it. That's a theory anyway.

The net effect will be exactly what I think the OEA has always been after: taking the decision about how to fund and manage a local school district away from the community and giving it to the state government – the state government that can be influenced (controlled?) with generous campaign contributions from the union, because the public in general doesn't bother to pay attention to the nitty details of government.

Some are calling this kind of movement the socialization of America. I know that the votes we take on how to fund our schools is one of the last situations in which taxpayers can directly control amount of money a public body has to work with (township governments are another). In nearly every other case, the amount we get taxed and the amount they spend is controlled by elected officials, who respond more to campaign contributors than to the public.

Many people in our community, including the entire senior leadership of our school district, have long wanted the state to take over more responsibility for local school funding.

I fear their wish is coming true.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Impressive: Audit & Accountability Team

This is a copy of an email I just sent to the members of our Board of Education. If you agree, please let them know your thoughts….pl

Members of the Hilliard Board of Education:

Thank you for the excellent job you have done in recruiting and selecting members for the new Audit and Accountability Committee. It is indeed refreshing to see people of this level volunteering to become involved in the fiscal operations of our school district.

But we must remember that auditing is the end step of the operations cycle. First you have to analyze and plan, then execute the plan, then audit and evaluate in preparation for going around the cycle once again. To be sure, your auditing team can be an important part of the overall process design, helping the leadership create systems which can be measured and evaluated, and in doing so making the whole process more transparent.

I encourage you to now turn, with urgency, to the first step - the analysis and planning stage. While many would say our current state funding system is flawed, it is at least the devil we understand. The new state funding system proposed by Governor Strickland is significantly different, enough so that it is not yet clear whether Hilliard City Schools will benefit or suffer under the new rules in the long term. Nor is the political wrangling over, as the General Assembly still has its shot to tweak the plan before it is enacted into law.

You have some critical decisions to make in the next year in regard to our future funding choices, and there are many variables in play. Would the new 'conversion levy' the Governor proposes be a good alternative for us? Will the public accept shifting to a levy format where property taxes increase automatically (ie without a vote) with property values? What happens when the transitional funding guarantees expire? To what degree are our choices influenced by various student growth rates? How important is commercial property valuation growth to the fiscal health of the district? How does the long term cost of labor factor into the equation?

I recommend that you assemble a Strategic Planning team of the same caliber of talent you have recruited for the Audit and Accountability team, and that you give this team the assignment of identifying and analyzing all of these factors, with the goal of presenting a set of alternative scenarios to you for your consideration.

And let us not forget the importance of community education. Regardless of the alternatives developed by a strategic planning team, and the course of action selected by the Board, within the next two years the public will be asked to vote on a levy of some kind, and it could very well be one of these complex conversion levies. The education effort should start immediately, and be part of an ongoing 'communications loop' that the public hears over and over at regular intervals, not just before the levy vote.

As I have said to you before, I would like to be part of this strategic planning team. I and others feel so strongly about the necessity of this planning and education effort that we have formed an independent group to take up the challenge. But it is a founding principle of our group that we wish not to stand in opposition to the School Board, but rather to be embraced as part of the team seeking to attack these issues for the benefit of our community.

I look forward to continued dialog on this matter.

Paul Lambert

Summary of Feb 2, 2009 Meeting

A dozen interested blog members joined our meeting on Monday to discuss the future of the group and actions that need to be taken. Mark presented an overview of the high-level strategy for structuring the organization into teams/committees and workstreams needed to meet the goals of our group's Mission and Scope. Paul also discussed the initial thoughts of Governor Strickland's plan, based on the limited information available at the time.

In the spirit of transparency and open communication, the presentation for the basis of the organizational forming discussion can be found here:

In short, there are three teams that will start work immediately in coordinated manner to build the organization:

Platform and Branding

Purpose: Develop strategy and consistent, presentable message describing the purpose and goals of the group.

Team Lead: Phil Petrella


Purpose: Identify audiences and perform actions needed to engage HCSD community and represent

Team Lead: Jackie Min


Purpose: Provide a central resource to create educational materials and present as needed.

Team Lead: Kerre Kammerer

Now that the structure and milestones have been defined, it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Over the next two months, the teams will be putting together detailed plans and materials to execute upon in 2009.


It is time to take the passion and energy you had in 2008 and put it to work in avoiding frustrating years like that in the future. There are several ways you can assist:

  • Contact the leaders of the teams or myself and volunteer to help out.
  • Join us at our meetings to provide your input and keep involved.
  • Extend the message of the blog/group to friends and interested constituents within HCSD.

Our next meeting will be on Monday, March 2; 6:45-8:15pm at the Hilliard Library. At this meeting we will get updates from each of the teams on their expanded plan and progress to date. Additionally, hopefully we will have more details on Governor Strickland's plan and what that means for Hilliard.

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the next meeting.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Governor’s New Plan, Part II

As more detail of Governor Strickland's new school funding plan comes to light, it's becoming clear how significantly different it is from the current funding system.

The full set of documents of his proposed 2010-2011 budget can be found here, at the website of the Office of Management and Budget. I've skimmed the various documents, and have to admit being confused about what all of this will mean for our school district.

Yesterday, the Columbus Dispatch published an article on the new school funding plan, including a table showing the projected funding changes for central Ohio districts. The punch line is that they see us getting just shy of $700,000 more in 2010, and another $2.6 million more in 2011. I don't know at this point whether that $2.6 million is a one-time spike, or that our funding will be permanently raised by that amount.

While $2.6 million/yr is a nice chunk of money, we have to remember that the operations budget for our school district for 2011 is $170 million, so it represents only 1.5% of our annual budget. I imagine that these numbers are a little disappointing to our school leaders, who were no doubt hoping for much more. Meanwhile, our cost of personnel (salaries + benefits) will increase $8.2 million from 2009 to 2010, and $8.4 million more in 2011.

After spending several years gaining an understanding of the current funding system, this is going to be like starting over. Right now, things sound pretty complicated, but I suspect that more comes to light the core concepts will become clearer, and our ability to model future state funding trends will improve.

One of the more technical aspects of this plan is the so-called 'Conversion Levy,' and I will admit that for right now, the details overwhelm me. The purpose of these levies is to allow a school district to neutralize the Ohio law commonly referred to as HB920, which causes the dollar amount collected by a levy on a piece of property to be kept constant even as property appraisals rise. For example, the 6.9 mill permanent operating levy we just passed caused our property taxes to increase $210 for each $100,000 in valuation. With the HB920 protections, if your property is reappraised at $120,000, your tax remains $210.

It has been the custom of our school district to fund operations with permanent operating levies. This just means that once the levy is passed, it stays on the books forever (or until rescinded by public vote). We have a pile of such levies in force, each one generating a piece of our total local funding amount.

As I understand it, we have a window of a few years during which we can pass a Conversion Levy, which allows us to replace all but 20 mills worth of these permanent levies with what amounts to Emergency levies, which do have an expiration date. By doing that, we engage other aspects of Ohio taxation law which allows the tax collected to rise with property values.

If that's true, then all indications are that our current School Board will be in support of going the route of a Conversion Levy. After all, this is the Board which supported the Getting It Right for Ohio's Future amendment, of which a key concept was the repeal of HB920.

But it may also be true that we would be exchanging permanent levies for levies which expire. That means that every once in a while, we'll have to vote on not just additional taxes, but whether or not to renew taxes already being collected. New Albany/Plain Local had this situation in 2008, when one single temporary levy of about 25 mills representing half of their funding came up for vote. Had that levy not passed, it would have gutted their school district. While there is something to be said for having the public reaffirm their support of the schools on a regular basis, that much exposure seems to be a bad idea. It would be better to have a portfolio of temporary levies which expire at various dates stretched out into the future (analogous to a 'CD ladder'), so that if the public decides to dial back local funding by choosing not to renew a temporary levy, it could be done in small chunks.

This is the time when the Board could use the help of a community Strategic Planning Team. We need to do some modeling of what various scenarios might look like: with and without a conversion levy; with and without a couple thousand new homes and new kids; with and without growth in property values; with various rate of increase of salaries and benefits. There are probably a handful of variables we need to play with. You can't just do this by the seat of the pants – you have to run the numbers and see how they come out.

Then the alternatives need to be brought to the public for discussion. While I am personally opposed to the concept of removing the HB920 protections, I'll have to see the numbers to make my final decision. I think many in the community feel the same way. This is no time for a "do you love your kids" debate.

But if we keep to our pattern of poor communications from the school leadership, and a public which largely doesn't have any interest in trying to understand and evaluate this stuff, we'll find ourselves on some Election Day in the near future voting on a conversion levy that will change things radically if passed, without a clue what those changes will be. The effects will surprise us, and then the complaining will begin.

Meanwhile, we need to understand that the Governor's proposal is just that. There is still a good deal of politicking to be done before anything gets enacted into law, and the tweaks may or may not affect us. I'll keep posting new information and analysis as I understand more. Meanwhile, if you have any insights into what all this means to Hilliard City Schools, please post a comment, or send me an email. The only thing I ask is that you are clear which things are fact (reference links are good), versus opinion. Both are valid, we just need to know which is which.