Thursday, July 30, 2009

New School Funding Law

The debate about how to fund Ohio's public schools has been raging for years, most famously via the DeRolph vs State of Ohio lawsuit. All most folks understand about this lawsuit is that it concluded that "funding schools with property taxes is unconstitutional." The leaders of the group opposing the operating levy being voted on in South Western City Schools next week make this a key part of their platform. However, neither these folks nor anyone else I've heard make this assertion can answer the question: "okay, so what kind of tax do you want to pay to support our schools?"

Governor Strickland has touted his "Evidence Based Model" (EBM) as the solution to the problem raised in the DeRolph case. A good chunk of this approach was incorporated into the 2010-2011 Biennial Budget, signed into law by the Governor on July 17, 2009 (with a substantial number of line item vetoes).

So how is the EBM different than the old funding model?

In terms of outcome for Hilliard City Schools, the answer is – not much. More on that later.

From a philosophical standpoint, the difference is this: The authors of the old funding model knew they didn't understand how all the moving parts in the various local school districts fit together to make a district either "thorough and efficient" (the Constitutional language), or not; while the authors of EBM believe they do.

In the old funding system, all of the 600+ public school districts in Ohio that meet certain performance indicators are put on a list, sorted by their per-student spending. The top and bottom 5% are thrown out, and the rest averaged to come up with a number. The theory is that even without knowing exactly how those well-performing districts spend their money – and it varies from district to district – if all districts are given this amount of money, they too should be able to have a well-performing district. Just for illustration, let's assume that this number is $6,000/pupil. If you have 10,000 pupils in your district, you should be able run it for $60 million/yr.

So how do property taxes fit in? Two ways. First, the primary adjustment to the state funding formula is called the Charge-Off. It is the amount of money that would be raised with 23 mills of local property taxes, and it is subtracted from the basic funding calculation. So let's say that in our example district of 10,000 pupils, the property has value such that 23 mills would generate $40 million in local property taxes. In that case, the State would subtract $40 million from $60 million to determine that the State's share of funding for our district would be $20 million.

This whole system makes perfect sense in my opinion. So why was DeRolph filed in the first place, and why did the Supreme Court say to chuck out property taxes as a funding mechanism?

It was because the Governor and the General Assembly never actually used this method to determine the base funding amount (ie the $6,000/pupil in this example). This money would have to come from the State's biennial budget, and school funding competed with a lot of funding demands, including big ticket items like Medicaid and law enforcement. So in the development of the budget, the Governor and General Assembly would need to make tough decisions how much to allocate to schools and these other funding needs, and how much new revenue could be raised with additional taxes. In the opinion of the education community, the public school funding was always shortchanged. That's why over 500 school districts ended up joining the DeRolph case.

The first attempt to replace the old funding system was a constitutional amendment, championed by a group called Getting It Right For Ohio's Future. Our Superintendent was very much in favor of this amendment, and convinced our School Board to support it as well. While GIRFOF might have solved the constitutional problems raised by DeRolph, in the process of doing so, it would have vested the Ohio Department of Education with the power to dictate how much of the state budget would be allocated to education, regardless of what impact it would have on every other funding need. In the opinion of the GIRFOF supporters, if we wanted all those other programs to be funded too, all we had to do was raise taxes.

Neither Governor Strickland nor the General Assembly supported GIRFOF, primarily because it would give the Department of Education first dibs on the state treasury without needing to seek approval from either the Governor or the General Assembly. GIRFOF took control away from local voters, the Governor, and the General Assembly, and gave it all to the Ohio Board of Education. Slick move on the part of the educators.

So the Governor came up with his own plan – the so-called Evidence Based Model. The claim of the EBM supporters is that they do understand what components are required to construct and fund a thorough and efficient school system. So they tell you how many teachers, principals, nurses, maintenance people, etc that you need based on the number of students in your school district. Here is an example calculation – obtained from the Ohio Office of Management and Budget.

Then – guess what – they reduce the amount of funding a district gets from the State based on the amount of money that would be generated by 20 mills of local property tax levies. Each school district is expected to continue to levy sufficient property taxes to fund a 'fair portion' of the cost of running their schools. So how is that different than the current plan?

Like I said above – not much. The Governor's EBM plan, now enacted into law, would provide $35.6 million in State Foundation Aid to Hilliard City Schools in 2010. As can be seen in our July SF-3 report, our State Foundation Aid under the old system would have been $34.6 million. To me, it seems like an argument about how you make the color Green. You say you add Blue to Yellow, I say you add Yellow to Blue. Does it matter since the outcome is the same?

I am particularly suspicious of a number in the new EBM calculations called the Ohio Instructional Quality Index (OIQI). This is a number with a 6 digit decimal fraction that is used to tweak the amount of money a district is supposed to get from the state to pay teacher salaries. It is supposed to be a factor calculated using various demographic characteristics of the people of a school district, including the number with college educations, the wealth per pupil, and certain poverty measures. The calculation is not codified into law – only this number with the six digit decimal fraction, district by district. It smells of being a 'knob' the legislators can twist to change the distribution of tax money without being detected on anyone's radar.

For Hilliard City Schools, this number is 1.154997. For Dublin, it's 1.035579. In this calculation, the larger the number, the more you get from the state to pay teacher salaries. Upper Arlington's factor is 0.914789, meaning that if their student profile were exactly the same as ours – same number of kids in the various grades and categories – they would get 12% less from the State to pay teacher salaries. Both South-Western City Schools and Columbus City Schools have similar factors: 1.460040 and 1.509988, respectively. This means those two districts would get about 30% more per student to spend on teachers. Of course, a district can spend whatever they want on teacher salaries as long as they fund the excess with local taxes.

The law describes 11 different teacher categories, and uses the enrollment data to determine how many of each kind of teacher are needed. In our case (example), we supposedly need 1044.5583 total teachers. You multiply that number by $51,407 (the State's number for average cost of salary and benefits for teachers), and you get $53,697,608.5281. Now multiply that by our OIQI of 1.1550, and you get $62,020,738 – and that's how much we should have to spend for 1,044 teachers.

But guess what – the property tax Charge Off still exists. In the EBM plan, it is based on 20 mills rather than 23 mills, but the concept is identical. The effect is that districts with high property values pay a greater share of the cost of operating their schools than do districts with low property values.

At the end of the day, the process of budgeting at the State level has only so many variables: a) how much revenue is projected to come in; and, b) how is that revenue to be distributed among various agencies, departments and programs. The reality in our great State is that the revenue side of that equation has tanked, along with the rest of the Rust Belt economy.

To a large degree, the education community acts like they don't care about the state of the economy – they want the schools to be funded as well or better than ever before, and since nearly 90% of school funding goes to pay compensation and benefits, the education community is essentially saying that they want to be paid in the same way as always, regardless of what has happened to the rest of us, and regardless of what impact that has on other State programs.

The process of negotiating union contracts and state budgets have something in common – they are an adversarial activity. That means that a debate takes place, and the outcome is determined by how well one side argues its case vs the other. Sometimes the argument takes the form of a threat, as is the case in South-Western City Schools where the educators have told the community to fork over more money in property taxes or they'll take away extracurricular activities.

The adversarial process works well as long as both sides have equal power, knowledge, savvy and motivation. The problem we have in America is that we have become almost completely apathetic to all things political.

All these crazy technical details exist in the school funding law because those on the side of the educators have knowledge, savvy and motivation, which gives them power. On the other side of the table is a public that mostly doesn't give a damn, and is certainly lacking the motivation to really dig into this stuff and take a stand.

A group of us have formed for the purpose of changing that imbalance of power. We want our fellow community members to be informed, savvy and motivated.

Will you join us?


  1. Paul,


    Two comments:

    1) Kudos on pointing out that levy detractors in SWCS aren't complaining because of HOW they are taxed, they are complaining because they ARE being taxed. The organization is South-Western ALTERNATIVE to Taxes, but their only alternative is "No Taxes". Rubbish.

    2) It always rubs me the wrong way when a school board being honest with the public about what will be cut is called a threat. What are they supposed to do? Not tell you what will be cut? THAT wouldn't work. Keep everything the same? THAT wouldn't work. Change union contracts in the middle of their agreement? THAT wouldn't work. So they make cuts to balance the budget where they can. I can tell you in SWCS, there is NOTHING left to cut (aside from Salaries/ Benefits) other than extra-curriculars. There isn't anything left.

    Now we can argue all day about the salaries and benefits, as that is the large elephant in the room, that everyone stares at, curses at, throws things at, etc... But you and I both know how balancing the budget by addressing the Classified/Certified/Administrative Union would have turned out. SWCS would be in the EXACT same situation right now, except with a bunch of pissed off cooks, bus drivers, teachers, and principals.

    Not saying salaries and benefits shouldn't be addressed, just that there is a reason why they weren't.

    I must say, I am little nervous about how your team(clan/club/not sure what to call you guys) is going to address this issue. Is a 'lockout' of HEA on the table? I just don't think they are gonna say "Yeah, less money for us is great." It seems the only leverage you, as a board member, have to achieve YOUR goal of less pay is a lockout.

  2. Musicman:


    2) The thing is that when revenue goes up (ie a levy is passed) 90% of the incremental revenue ends up being applied to compensation & benefits, but when there is a budget squeeze, the reductions are taken out of the 10% that is NOT compensation and benefits.

    Few school districts actually suffer a material decrease in revenue. The situation is almost always that revenue doesn't increase as fast as the automatic raises and benefits costs.

    In other words, the 90% squeezes out the 10%.

    THAT'S the dynamic our group wants the public to understand. We aren't taking the stand that teachers and other school employees are being paid too much.

    Our position is that the school leadership has failed to educate the public about the connection between levies and compensation, and until that connection is well understood by the community, we're always going to have flawed process.

    I wish the ballot language for a levy was simply this:

    "Do you agree to increase your property taxes by 9% every other year so that our teachers and other school employees can have 7% annual raises?"

    Or even better (and these are made-up numbers):

    Pick one:
    1. No increase in taxes;
    2. 5% increase in property taxes every other year to fund 3% annual increases to school employee salaries;
    3. 9% .... for 7% increase
    4. 20% .... for 15%...

    I wonder how that would come out?

  3. Paul, I agree with your 90/10 argument, especially how it pertains to Diesel cost. However, doesn't the bulk of the Extra-curricular activity costs come from stipends to the coaches, facilitators and ADs within the 90? It would be really good to get a breakdown of this. For example, SW is saving $2.5 million. How much of that is equipment, league fees, liability insurance and non-driver transportation costs (which come from the 10)?

  4. Mark:

    The breakdown of instructional costs vs extracurriculars isn't really the point of this post. The point is:

    1. State funding is all about compensation and benefits;

    2. The Governor's new system isn't really all that new - it still leaves local school districts heavily dependent on local property taxes, and the outcome of the calculation - ie the amount of state funding our district receives - appears to be much the same as the old system.


  5. Musicman,

    Lockout? I dont believe that
    anything has been said, other than to lower the increases in the compensation area to help space out levies a little further.

    Didnt the HEA take a strike vote ?
    Even though the contract contained
    very generous raises and a top of the line medical and benefit plan
    did they not just barely pass the
    contract.? Given the economy and how it affects the every day citizen who are LOSING their jobs, taking days off with out pay,
    pay cuts (Librarians, police, mental health workers, social workers,) why is it such a big deal to take an adjustment down to a total of 2.5% versus 7%
    A medical plan that cost 50.00 per month with very favorable deductibles compared to the private sector, couldnt we save some operating dollars by increasing premiums and deductibles

    Southwest could have saved some bond levy dollars by scaling back
    Central Crossings infrastructure
    and Hilliard Bradley compared to Davidson and Darby clearly has a lot of bells and whistles not needed.

    Southwest voters have not voted for
    much of an increase in their taxes
    and that contribution needs to increase. It is unreasonable to not expect increases along the way

    Here in Hilliard, we have consistently passed and voted for
    increases in our taxes to support the schools. But what you get at election time is when expenditures are questioned, (like giving out
    7% raises, and a premium benefit
    packages ) is that the HEA the board and admin, and the employees
    tell this very same community that you dont get it, and dont care about the kids, which couldnt be farther from the truth.

    The same group you are questioning has supported the levies in the past , plus individual citizens like myself.

    Part of the fall election campaign for school board should not be talk about a lockout,but about creating a financial plan to provide consistent but much smaller increases in compensation to spread out tax levies.

    During the current city council campaign, one of the recurrent questions that the candidates are facing is their huge increases in property taxes, not my words, but comments made at candidate nights.
    Citizens who are concerned about this are not just naysayers.

    I have to question why educators are not willing to take adjustments in the increases ,
    (note not cuts) when EVERYDAY we are reading of not only private sector employees losing their jobs, but also public sector employess, police, fire, library
    social workers, city workers, taking actual pay cuts, non paid days off, benefit cuts

  6. Paul -

    Your comment to mm was the best, yet most concise explanation that I've seen concerning why proposed budgets are considered a "threat" by most of the public. And I think this applies to issues like the City of Columbus tax increase just as well as it does to school levy issues.

    The only time we see the 90% ever being affected is when the administration proposes cutting the positions by laying off the newest members of the union - not the lowest performing. My guess that if we were able to lay off (euphemism for fire) the lowest performing, least effective employees, we might actually be able to reduce that 90% to a smaller percentage of the total operating budget with the only side effect being a better educational product that costs the taxpayers less to operate.

  7. Rick,

    You can talk until you are blue in the face. Don't you think the current board talks to HEA about these things? Of course they do!! They might not get the results you want, but I'm positive they are VERY much in the know with how their budget works, and where the large portion of expenditures is located.

    My question for Paul is, what happens when you do all this talking and HEA says "Thanks for chatting, we'd like our raise now."??

    You make it sound like the current board forgot to suggest to HEA that they should reign in their expenditures. I don't buy it. What happened was, in my opinion, what happens to every district. Board says money is tight, you make take most of our budget, here is a fair offer. Union says screw you, we want more or we strike. Board compromises, and gets nowhere close to the salary containment they wanted. THAT is the reality of the situation, and my question for Paul was regarding what to do then. Union will NOT budge, IMO, until forced. I don't agree, but that is what IS.

    I'm not defending them Rick. Jeez-o-Pete, how many times do I have to say that?? I DID ask my Union about taking a pay cut. Didn't get a receptive reponse....

  8. MM:

    School Boards fear escalating the adversarial situation to the nuclear level - a teacher strike - because of the disruptive nature, especially to upper grade kids. As long as the unions know that is the case, the unions will always ultimately be able to bully the School Boards to settle in the union's favor.

    I've taken the position that if a strike has to happen to change the trajectory of expense growth, then so be it.

    But I'd want to work real hard to keep it from getting to that point.

    I'd like to find a way to have front line teachers and people from the community to get a dialog going. Maybe a series of meetings moderated by a neutral third party. While Board members and union leaders could be present, they would not be allowed to participate.

    Then just let those folks talk about what a fair compensation package for the teachers should look like.

    Maybe a pipe dream, but it sure beats the way we do things now.

    And if all else fails, it turns out that the Board might have a nuclear weapon too - bankruptcy. At least that's what leadership of the Detroit schools are going to do - primarily because it gives them the ability to toss out the existing union contracts and start over.


  9. Paul,

    I had a feeling this was how you felt:

    "I've taken the position that if a strike has to happen to change the trajectory of expense growth, then so be it."

    I just hope this is clearly stated in your platform/campaign. Looks like we have a collision course in our very near future if Team EducateHilliard wins in November.

    To be honest, it makes me sick to think of that happening, but I don't think it is far-fetched at all. Those poor kids, stuck right smack dab in the middle of this adult mess. It disappoints me incredibly that teachers are EVER willing to strike. Not something I'd do. It also disappoints me that you and your campaign are willing to draw such a line in the sand.

    There isn't a child in our district we can afford to sacrifice, even for one year I hope and pray both sides see this, and a resolution can be reached.

  10. MM:

    My position is that the Board needs to quit showing up with a knife to a gunfight. My understanding is that the teachers authorized their leaders to call a strike during the last negotiations. One of these days, that bluff might have to be called.

    I need to make it clear that this is my position, and not necessarily that of either Don or Justin.

    We're not running together because we are in lockstep on every issue. We come from unique backgrounds, and each have our own relationship with the schools (my kids are grown, Justin just had his first, and Don has one graduated, one in elementary, and one in special needs).

    Our common belief is that there is nowhere near enough communication and dialog in our community about school matters, and in particular about economics.

    A point I've made many times is that I envision a time when the people of the community understand school finance sufficiently to carry on an informed and respectful dialog about it, and that when a levy is put on the ballot, the issue has been discussed, compromises made, and agreements reached such that it passes with 80% or more of the vote.

    That doesn't mean the teachers will always get their way. Rather it means that a levy reaches the ballot as the result of all that dialog, not the beginning of it.

    I hope you're interested in seeing that vision come true as well.


  11. Paul,

    I agree with your premise and your vision, they are quite noble and truly do have the good of everyone in mind for the long term. My concern is this:

    "...the issue has been discussed, compromises made, and agreements reached such that it passes with 80% or more of the vote."

    In my opinion, that will NEVER happen. I believe there are at LEAST 20%, maybe closer to 30-35%, who will ALWAYS vote no, regardless of how much dialogue is presented.

    You know my position: I'm not prepared to put ANY child's education on the back burner. I'd rather continue as we are forever than risk eliminating the opportunities, even if briefly, for students who get only one shot at an education.

    Your vision is something I can get behind 100%. The means to the end is what I have to figure out if I support. As always, your thoughtful, respectful dialogue can do nothing but benefit our community, and for that I thank you.

  12. Another refreshing article in the Dispatch this morning

    Clinton Twp firefighters forego
    pay raise, to insure Twp has enough funds to get a new fire apparatus.

    Add this to the list of public sector employees in Central Ohio who are faced with pay cuts, non paid furloughs, pension contribution freezes, cuts in medical and other benefits.

    Yet we cannot even get a budge out of proposals to limit spending increases to 2.5 to 3%.

    Lets keep pointing fingers at concerned citizens who want to insure that we maintain quality education, but understand that
    some financial adjustments have to be made.

    How soon will we hear "we are working to the contract"?

  13. Sometimes the argument takes the form of a threat, as is the case in South-Western City Schools where the educators have told the community to fork over more money in property taxes or they'll take away extracurricular activities.

    And how would this situation change if the public was educated and involved? The school districts still have the whip hand with regard to the ability to take away extracurriculars.

  14. It would substantially reduce - hopefully eliminate - the misdirection of the conversation.

    The conversation would cease being portayed as being about education quality, extracurriculars, and student services (ie all the stuff that's "for the kids") and be revealed as what it truly is: a negotiation on compensation between the taxpayers and the unions.


  15. I think what most are saying is that we don't consider the idea of announcing potential cuts on the table prior to a levy vote a "threat". In fact, we ASKED that the school district offer that information prior to the last levy vote. HOWEVER, I think many were displeased with some of the proposed cuts. Someof the potential cuts were not even legal options, while others seemingly offered little financial value if implemented (but offered a "pain" factor.

    So, I think we appreciate publication of the "list", but some questioned the "value" of the cuts. But as we heard loud and clear in subsequent Board meetings, one's position on the proposed cuts was directly related to one's affinitity to the program affected.

    Of course, the argument by most on this blog is that the "list" shouldn't be a "surprise", because in an ideal world, all stakeholders would be in dialogue that would render discussion of impact of a proposed levy unnecessary.

    Either way, unless expenditures are reduced, cuts will HAVE to be made. Unfortunately, extracurriculars are the easiest, most leveraging, and most non-essential programs (according to state requirements) available for cuts once a levy is defeated.

  16. Of course, the argument by most on this blog is that the "list" shouldn't be a "surprise", because in an ideal world, all stakeholders would be in dialogue that would render discussion of impact of a proposed levy unnecessary.

    I should clarify my statement... I am one who believes the contents of the proposed cut list shouldn't be a surprise. However, I think most (if not all) programs hold value.... the question is which ones hold the MOST value for the MOST students related to the MISSON of the school district.

    THAT, is the difficult part to of the dialogue, because value is in the eye of the beholder.

  17. KJ:

    These 'cut lists' have become the weapon of choice of government agencies seeking more funding. We're seeing glaring examples of it right now, with the Columbus income tax levy and the South Western School operating levy - both on the ballot tomorrow.

    In neither case do they say that the line item that is driving expenses UP is Compensation and Benefits, but yet they proclaim that failure of the levy will force them to cut [fill in the blank].

    I disagree that the stuff they put on the cut list are the easiest and most-leveraging 'knobs' at their disposal. All it takes is for the Board to ask for, and the unions to agree to, a moderation of the raises built into their existing contracts.

    But the executives we elect or appoint to manage these organizations in our behalf have long ago decided that it is easier to us taxpayers for more money every once in a while rather than be tough negotiators with the unions they have to work with every day.

    Things are this way because we Americans have become great complainers, but mostly unwilling to actually get informed and take action.

    So the 'management' of these public entities as well as the union employees are engaged in an unlikely alliance seeking to get more and more money out of the public. If they aren't successful in manipulating us directly, they'll seek to have the funding control turned over to politicians who can be 'influenced' via huge voting blocs and campaign contributions.

    That's why I make this point over and over:



  18. I do agree that lists have become "weapons". I hope that was clear in my post. My point was that I believe, and have asked, that those items at risk to be published prior to the election... I just don't agree that what is proposed is the best choice.

    We can debate what is easiest for the district to put on the list... it doesn't change either of our points of view on this. I think, for instance, drama, football, use fees, etc., are much easier for the district to put on the list than reneogiation with unions or cutting staff. I also believe the perceived impact of losing a major program is FAR greater than the idea of losing administrative positions, reducing compensation of staff, or increasing insurance premium contributions.

    It's about selling a levy. It's marketing. Nothing like the threat of pain or a doomsday theory to sell something the public doesn't want.

    I would bet that if the next levy were deemed unnecessary because of compensation corrections..... the NEXT levy would be about scare tactics again as there would not be an easier button to press. Once the unions (I hope) make the right choice and offer compensation concessions, the district will be right back in the business of "scare tactics"... because that is what passes levies. You and I prefer honesty and transparency, but I don't think the masses will buy off on that. Most will vote no until emotion/pain exceeds their ability to say no.

    This applies to voters, unions, and school officials.... in fact it is a universal law.... change WILL NOT occur until the pain of staying the same surpasses the pain of change. I think the voters are reaching that point, perhaps so is the rest of the district. However, once change occurs in the compensation model... and maybe I'm just having a day of defeated attitude.... but I bet the district's next levy campaign will be based on the "Pain of Change".... or in that case "Pain of not passing the levy"

  19. I agree it's about marketing.

    There are many kinds of selling. One is the guy on Broadway in NYC selling imitation Rolex watches out of a suitcase. There is no relationship building - just a seller and a prospective buyer, mechandise and price. The transaction is over in 90 secs, and with any luck, the buyer got his money's worth. There's not going be any returns or customer service.

    Then there's the kind of selling that goes on when the hope is to develop a relationship that last for years, over many transactions. That's the world I come from.

    The relationship between the people of the public and a public agency like a school district lasts as long as one lives in the community. It is more intense at some times, such as when you have kids in school, but it never goes away because there are property taxes to be paid and levies to be voted on.

    It seems that the communications strategy in our district (and most) is to put out a flurry of stuff when a levy vote is coming, but otherwise keep pretty quiet about school economics.

    Openness and transparency is an essential start, but nowhere near enough to maintain a long, healthly relationship. To do that, you need lots and lots of communication. Sometimes it's long essays like the stuff I tend to write as an accomplished blowhard. Sometimes it's just a tweet. It's the gap between communications which causes the problem.

    I've long advocated that the Superintendent's column in the Northwest News be used in this manner in regard to school economics. We know from lots of surveys that this newspaper is the primary source of school information for people in our community (This Week Hilliard is right up there as well).

    It's easy to overdo communications. But a business mentor of mine taught me that if you're going to err - make it on the side of overcommunications. This philosophy served our business very well.

    One of the worst things of all would be what you describe - a period of what seems to be a communications renaissance that quickly fades back to the same old game of hiding truths and making threats.

    You're right about what it takes to bring about change. That's the reason I'm not willing to take off the table the possibility of pushing things to the point of a teacher strike.


  20. "One of the worst things of all would be what you describe - a period of what seems to be a communications renaissance that quickly fades back to the same old game of hiding truths and making threats.

    And THAT is when my Yes vote goes to No. In fact, I need to see A LOT more than I've seen to even get another Yes vote from me. I announced my position on the need for better, and more HONEST, communication during last election. I kept my end of the bargain and voted FOR the levy! As of the time of this post, I've seen nothing that indicates the district is living up to my requested behavior..... They are losing my vote.

  21. Nope, nothing has changed in that regard. The Board last met on July 9 and the minutes of that meeting are not even on the web site a month later. Not that they probably had all that much to discuss during the summer - they are waiting for the next crisis to develop, ignoring the fact that they are in a state of continual crisis. Of course there could be lots of discussion "behind the scenes" I suppose....

  22. SWCS is only the tip of the iceberg.... Hilliard, and other similar communities, are headed for a similar fate. Perhaps not exactly, but the overall crisis is the same.

    And now the Governor is adding more school days, reducing or freezing state funding for Hilliard-like districts, and adding other mandated, unfunded costs on the Ohio school system.

    School districts like Hilliard are going to start collapsing. It's only a matter of time I'm afraid.

  23. MM:

    Sorry for not seeing your comment of 7/31 11:42pm. It wasn't held on purpose - I just missed the email notification.

    Yeah, 80% is a dream, but being satisfied with 50.1% is reckless.

    I worked the polls at 1st Presby in Grove City - steady stream of voters all day - 65% turnout I think. We had three precincts, and the two precincts in the city limits passed the levy, while the one in the township opposed it.

    Hope you came out okay.


  24. KJ:

    I fear you are correct. All the more reason to elect a school board that's committed to a open and truthful dialog about school funding. Maybe we can head off such a disaster in our community.


  25. The harsh reality is that SWCS will now become (hopefully) the experiment that everyone uses to see what happens when there is a collision between administration and community.

    I am absolutely disgusted by what the community in SWCS has done to their own children, but also recognize the very prominent role the school played. Large corporations (read: school districts) sometimes do wrong by their constituencies, but communities shouldn't turn their backs on their children.

    I am hopeful that a harsh lesson will be learned by all, and that:

    1) HCSD will be proactive in building a plan of action with HEA and the community


    2) The community will not hold the school district hostage with their vote, and allow things to continue without burning the house down.

    In the mean time, I will continue to try to wrap my mind around what has happened. It is so surreal...

  26. Paul, question, do you have any hard data on the actual requirements that allow the school districts to deny access to the public to school buildings after the school day?
    Also what about the actual athletic fields.? I would think that because these structures and fields were paid not with operating dollars but with bond levy capital funds
    that this would be in question

    SWCC can bring back athletics in a heartbeat. May not be able to bring all levels of sports but.
    Football gate revenue helps support the football program
    Cross Country teams cost HOW much to run, former Division 1 runner so I Know ! Soccer, the field is there, raise some money for officials.


    It is interesting how the sports thing gets so much coverage. I like my sports, ran track and cross country at a MAC school minor scholarship. Pay to play would help fund it, the SWCC just chooses not to even try to go

    As we have done in Hilliard we have consistently passed levies
    and yet at levy time the board, the administration, and especially the employee groups act like
    no one cares. "you dont get it"
    as the OAPSE president said at a board meeting last Augu

    So, again given our economy I revise my suggestion about holding raises to 3% Many have tried to tell them and we get no reaction

    So, the new deal is pretty simple
    Next year the district should put on the ballot a millage that will
    cost each homeowner based on
    100,000 in value a 60.00 incre

    2. Teacher raises in 3 years
    1.5, 1.75 1.75 % to include step raise.

    3. Save immediate short term dollars by eliminating for two
    years the pension contribution
    that the district(taxpayers) make
    to the employee pension funds

    4. Raise medical contribution
    by employees. If I read the contract correctly, currently a
    single person pays 50.00 per month
    for coverage. Raise that higher
    to at least $150.00 per month,
    eliminate the deductible contribution the district makes to cover portions of the employees deductible. Raise the family
    contribution to $250 per mont

    5. Reduce by 20% all supplemental contracts

    6. Eliminate the newly appropriated
    2 PR positions or whatever they are for. Paul did you ever get an answer on what those two new positions were for.?

    7. Eliminate 10 admin. positions starting with principals for each grade in the high schools

    8. Start some cost containment
    against our wonderful building programs. Did Bradley need to cost
    over 60 million ? Could we have saved 5 million of that to go for repairs to other buildings

    9.Freeze admin. pension contributions, reduce compensation
    2% for them.

    10. Get a detailed plan to the public on what we are spending specifically on extra curriculars
    Can we save some new dollars each year. Can't the FBall team save some money on travel, uniforms
    expenses. Saw a Bradley jersey the other day, pretty expensive looking. Pay to play increased slightly, including the arts,
    music. Dont eliminate after school clubs, student govt. These organizations basically utilize a classroom. WE paid for that classroom. If the district is that foolish, have the meetings at the library, a local resturant.
    It allways slays me that they have to cut a language club, a key club
    4H student govt. et all.

    I know, I have said all of this before. Sorry, but I HAVE adjusted some numbers and gone deeper into
    the benefits. This has everyone contributing, and yes even a small tax increase for the homeowner

    If we are so great why is the remediaton rate at Ohio colleges so high. I think anyone
    who has to take a remedial class and actually passed the OHIO worthless test( oh sorry worthless standardized test, should be reimbursed

    Adjustments need to be made now.
    The district should be up front
    The special interests will need to
    have some real adjustments in compensation increases for a few years until the economy improves

  27. Ranger Rick,

    SWCS chooses not to institute pay to play under the auspices of equity.

    Our district is SO diverse demographically (WAY more diverse than HCSD, or any other suburb), it truly would be a case of haves and have-nots.

    That is not something SWCS wishes to propagate, and I applaud them for it (Keeping in mind my marching band is gone as a result).

    I am glad they are able to stand up for the poor students in our district who cannot afford to pay school fees, let anyone pay for sports.

  28. Well it is amazing what a good run will do for you. Also did not cost me anything, old t shirt, shoes
    running shorts old, et al!!!!

    Piggybacking on my idea of the
    community anteing up about 60.00 per hundred thousand, wait now we can probably make that 50.00 It lasts for 4 years, not permanent. The entire amount goes to fund extra curriculars, music, art, band, sports school clubs. Most likely it can be less. Pay to play
    stays constant. Supplemental contracts frozen.

    So that way thedistrict cannot
    put the extra curriculars on the chopping block.

    If you want to raise money for more infrastructure, that is an additional bond levy. Could have saved some of the last one by cutting some of the bells and whistles at Bradley

    Operational levy then consists of
    a contribution to the benefits and compensation. You give the voter
    an accurate ten year average of increases for admin, and employees and then you put on the appropriate
    levy to actually pay for that too
    Starting at 4% and then adjusting
    to the pension and benefit contribution

    Everybody contributes not just
    the taxpayer, not just the parents of the kids. EVERYONE takes
    some sacrifice. And we dont worry about hurting the kids over

  29. Musicman, Columbus Public and Reynoldsburg to name a few are as diverse economically as Southwest is.

    I had to pay to play way back in the late 60's early 70's 30 dollars to run cross country and the same
    to play basketball, and then track
    I had to earn my money to pay th \e
    90.00. 14 weeks of a paper route !

    At the same time you are defending poor kids who cannot pay, you have chastised the same community whose members who may have voted no, because they cannot afford it

    Which is it

  30. Ranger Rick,

    Those communities you mentioned do not have the extremely large numbers of urbran, rural, suburban, and wealthy that we have in SWCS. I'm not just speaking of ethnic minorities here. We are the 6th largest school district in Ohio, with large constituencies from a multitude of different walks of life. Not debatable, WAY more diverse.

    I defend students ALWAYS, and I always will. Don't misunderstand. Students in sports/band DO pay to participate already. Most probably over $100. They are paying for travel/uniforms/equipment/etc... These activities are not FREE to start with. I also respect the right for people to vote no because they genuinely cannot afford it. I also firmly believe that those folks are VERY small in number.

    Most folks, IMO, who vote no, do so because they do not wish to pay more taxes. Period. They may justify those reasons, but that is the root cause. In fact, the anti-levy campaign that so many voters attached themselves to is called "South-Western Against Taxation." Their sole purpose is to vote NO on ANY school tax issue.

    If you can't afford it, vote no. When you can afford it, and hide behind other reasons, that is inexcusable.

    This whole "so many folks can't afford the increase" line is not accurate. If you can't afford the increase, you shouldn't be living in a $150,000-$200,000 house, certainly not more. If you live in a house under that amount, you are talking about $250 per YEAR, which is $20 per month. I don't buy it. Ditch the cell phone. Quit smoking cigarettes. Get rid of HBO/Showtime. Don't eat out Friday nights. Don't go to movies. No more vacations. Trade in the SUV more a compact sedan.

    Now, you find me the person who can't afford it and rids themselves of those things, and I'll pick them up and take them to the polls so they can vote no.

  31. Musicman - it is just now that I have discovered what district you are in - to tell the truth I always thought it was one of the more affluent suburban districts up north, although I am not sure how I came to that...Anyway:
    I have two issues with your latest post - first, I get extremely agitated when people try to tell others what to give up in order to pay for something else, especially levies. We have freedom of choice in this country (at least for now!) and it is just plain not right for someone to berate someone else's lifestyle because they won't support yours. And before you object to that wording, my second issue - the taxpayers DO support your lifestyle as we pay your compensation and therefore we ought to have something to say regarding the levels, and more particularly, the trends. Due mostly to this forum, we all know that 80%+ of the revenues go to personnel costs, and that is where the majority of future cost containment must come from. Many who vote NO are NOT anti-tax; I was firmly against the last levy in Hilliard and voted No in May, only to turn around and vote Yes in November. I only did that so I could, with a clear conscience, say I am FOR the kids while continuing to rail against the system itself. However, along with KJ and others, I have seen nothing change in Hilliard. I am hopeful that the change will come with the November elections, but if it doesn't, and if the Board does not rein in spending with the next contracts, that will be my last Yes vote. Yes, I can afford to pay more (at least for now and in spite of lower earnings due to my business suffering the same economic woes that many others are facing) but that doesn't mean I should. I would feel even more strongly about it if I lived in the SW district as I see a whole different set of problems there, especially regarding test scores, but my point in Hilliard is you have to learn to live within a budget. I would love to pay the best teachers more money, and I would also love to get rid of teachers who don't deserve their current pay, much less any more. But we plain and simply don't have the money, and you can't keep going to the taxpayers to make them cough up more. Until the system is fixed, teachers are going to have to suffer along with the rest of us. After all, you are not alone!

  32. Musicman, thanks for telling us what you and other educators think we are entitled to spend out of money we earn.

    I would assume it would be ok to have a phone to be able to stay in contact with ones family who liver out of state. Or should one move closer to them, just because you said so. BUT Would it also be ok if we all paid the same medical
    contribution. the 45.00 co pay, and 3100 medical premium. Can we have the same time off as the education commuity does or vacation ? ? I dont have an SUV or
    HBO, but would it be ok to have a radio. ?

  33. Hillirdite/Rick,

    You both seem to think I shouldn't be able to tell you what to spend your money on. You are right. I can't. If I could, I would make you spend it on education, as opposed to those other things, if you were having to choose.

    Do you have the right to have a $70 cell phone plan with unlimited data and texting? Sure. Do I think you should vote no because you can't afford it, if you have that plan? NO WAY.

    If you think that makes me a bad person, I'm going to have to accept that.

    As a side note, my posts on this forum have NOT typically been in defense of the status quo as far as schools go. I have never tried to justify my time off or salary, other than to say I am highly educated and I PERSONALLY work well beyond what my contract requires of me. I AM for reform, but both Hillirdite and Rick, who have been on here for awhile, refuse to acknowledge that fact. I represent NO other teachers but myself.

    Those are my priorities, and are the priorities that I wish for my neighbors and fellow community members to exhibit. Rick, do I think you should pay it forward with your earnings, considering the fantastic FREE education, complete with extracurriculars, that you received? I sure do.

    How dare you prevent kids from having their one chance to experience activities in schools. There are thousands of kids in SWCS who have had the rug pulled out from under them, by adults who have "had it." That is B.S.

    If you've had it, you are entitled to:

    -Vote out the school board
    -Run for school board
    -Write letters to boards/papers, etc...
    -Write congressmen/State Reps
    -Vote out legislators

    You are NOT, in my opinion, allowed to take from kids who have done nothing wrong. To hide behind the "they'll thank us later" or "some students may have to sacrificed for the common good" or anything else. What is staring you in the face is a child, one that now cannot experience some of the most fantastic times a student can have.

    Did the school board/admin play a HUGE role in us going down this road? YES. Do we stoop to their level. No way. A community I live in WILL support their children through public education. If they can't, I'll exercise my choices, which are the same as listed above for you. Just a hint, it probably involves me leaving my childhood hometown. If that makes me crazy, or whatever you'd like to call me, I'll gladly accept it.

  34. MM:

    My thinking aligns with Hillirdite on this one. The vote on an operating levy is one step of process in the negotiation between the teachers and the taxpayers. There is no inherent right on the part of the teachers to more of my money, or anyone else's.

    If you get more, I have less. If I keep more, you get less. The process will sort that out if we let it.

    Unfortunately, the conversation is misdirected by the school leadership so as to make the public think it's about extracurriculars and all the other student services stuff that gets cut when a levy fails.

    This misdirection has been going on for so long that the both the teachers and the public have all but forgotten the truth.

    Restoring this truth to the forefront is a primary mission of


  35. MM:

    You said: How dare you prevent kids from having their one chance to experience activities in schools. There are thousands of kids in SWCS who have had the rug pulled out from under them, by adults who have "had it."

    I find this particularly offensive. How is that teachers get to say this to members of the public when the primary reason school operations costs are increasing exponentially is teacher compensation?

    It is this increasing compensation cost which is squeezing the extracurriculars out of the budget. If you and your fellow union members feel extracurriculars are so important, then offer to cut your salary for a year or two.

    I spoke to a good friend of mine today who works for a company that needed to cut personnel costs significantly. The employees decided that they would all take four weeks of unpaid leave rather than have any of their fellow workers laid off. That's the kind of company I would want to work for.

    When are we going to see teachers willing to make a sacrifice in this tough economy. Why are the teachers letting the kids suffer?


  36. Paul,

    Again and again and again I've said to you that I spoke up, and wasn't listened to. I know others who spoke up, and weren't listened to. I certainly didn't let this happen to my students, or the students in my school community. Do I have a plan? Sort of. VERY tough thing, standing up to a Union. You all make it sound like it should be easy to topple these Unions. There is a reason they are still around.

    Also this...

    The COMMUNITY has the final say. ALWAYS. They have their finger on the button, and they dictate the final result of how things go. Unions suck, boards make mistakes. And it is the PEOPLE of our great country who can choose to save our children. When things suck, and their backs are against the wall, AND when they feel they're being held hostage. Who in the HE$$ wouldn't pay a ransom for their kids?? I'd pay a ransom for my neighbors kids, and I find them annoying and bratty. I'd pay a ransom for YOUR kids, Paul. The SWCS community chose not to...

  37. MM:

    No, the community doesn't have the final say.

    The community gets to make a decision, and the union gets to choose how to react. Then the community gets to make another decision, and the union gets to decide how to react to that decision.

    At other times, the union acts first, and the community gets to decide how to react. It's a dance, and either party can take the first step.

    There are no good guys. The adults battle it out, and let the kids get hurt. It's just like any other form of terrorism - the object is to make the pain so bad for the other side that they give in.

    Eventually the side being terrorized decides they've had enough. Many years ago, after many instances of their people being taken hostage by terrorists, Israel decided that they would no longer negotiate with terrorists.

    They told their people that if they were taken hostage, the primary objective of the Israeli Army would be to kill the hostage-takers, not rescue the Israelis who had been taken hostage.

    The terrorists tested this policy a few times. They took Israelis hostage and made demands that would have to be satisfied before the Israelis would be released. True to their policy, every time the Israeli army killed each and every terrorist without yielding to any of the demands.

    A number of Israeli hostages were also killed in the process. But the hostage-taking stopped. There was nothing to be gained.

    This is a violent analogy for this situation, but the battle is just as real.

    Unless we want to allow the unions to continue to bully the school boards and the public by taking our kids hostage, at some point, a stand will have to be taken, regardless of the collateral damage.

    That may be where we are in SWCS. Were it goes from here is largely in the hands of the union. They can stand their ground and watch SWCS meltdown.

    Or they can redefine their role as well as their relationship with the school board and be a big part of restoring health.

  38. Paul,

    I rarely disagree with your vision, and I agree in this case as well. What I disagree with is whether it needs to happen that way. I'm not comfortable with it, and I don't think your analogy does our situation justice. $250 dollars per $100,000 does not equal the death of a human being. I understand your point, but smell apples and oranges here.

    It sickens me that people are willing to sacrifice any children of our community.

    I'll add my typical post ending disclaimer.

    -Hate Unions
    -Want Change
    -Want good community relations
    -Am not the stereotypical teacher folks speak of here

  39. MM:

    I know we agree on many things, and as I've said before, I appreciate our discussions - especially when your comments cause me to think of things from a new perspective. I hope to offer that to you as well.

    No, I don't think this is apples and oranges. It's a matter of degree, not construction. In both cases it is about bullying, and response to bullying. In both cases innocent hostages are taken. In both cases, the innocents may pay the price for the disagreements of the combatants.

    Change starts when there are those on both sides willing to envision a different state of existance and willing to work bravely and passionately to make it come true. Think Reagan and Gorbechev. We didn't so much win the Cold War as we refused to capitulate to the bullies.

    I and my running mates, Don Roberts and Justin Gardner, want to be the leaders of change on the part of the school board, but we'll need to enlist the help of likeminded people in the community to pull it off.

    I hope there are those in the union who share our vision, and that they will elect new leadership willing to help us find ways to resolve issues in a manner that doesn't put the kids in the crossfire. Maybe you could be such a person for SWEA.

    But I fear the bullies in your union are not going to give up without a very bloody fight.


  40. musicman - I am really sorry that some of these posts offend you, but please keep in mind that I, at least, am not directing my comments at any one person, and especially not at you. I understand where you are coming from, and I admire your willingness to agree that the system is at fault, and that the unions have not been good for the system. At the same time, I stand my ground in that it is just not right to tell others to adjust their spending priorities in order to fall in line with yours. Although my post WAS in direct response to yours, it was meant as a general rebuttal to ALL who have made that statement, and there have been many others.
    Like Paul, I appreciate the insight of an educator on this forum and it is even better to have one who does not follow lockstep with the union. Still, on many items on the agenda, we are going to have to agree to disagree.
    Personally, I mean no disrespect when that occurs.

  41. This mornings editorial in the Columbus Dispatch was refreshing to say the least. It was very positive in the correlation that those who simply question expenditures are not anti tax zealots or anti school

    Congrats to the Educate Hilliard group and the Educate Worthington group for getting some props on the mission they are focused on.

    Kudos to Marc Share for standing up as a board memeber, willing to put a levy on the ballot, but stating that he will be opposed if he hears any of the typical negative garbage about how the community doesnt care.

    I hope there will be many many forums for the school board campaign, not just the usual controlled format that benefit the incumbents.