Ohio House School Funding Hearing – The Good, The Bad, The Charter Schools | Part 1

Four of the pillars of American conservative education reform – Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution, Rick Hess from the American Enterprise Institute, Students First (Michelle Rhee’s group) and Marguerite Roza of the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington – which provided the blueprint for the Cleveland Plan – testified before the Ohio House Finance Committee Dec. 6.

While I commend Chairman Ron Amstutz for holding these hearings, the fact he has not heard from any comparably strong voices on the public education side of things, such as Diane Ravitch or Linda Darling-Hammond, should be a cause of concern for Ohioans. We need to get school funding right. But not all the answers on school funding come from the right.

Today, I want to recount a few positive take-aways from last week’s testimony. I’ll follow-up tomorrow with some of the more troubling items from the hearing.

  • Each of these witnesses made some pretty good points. They talked about the state giving flexibility to local officials to spend money as they choose, so long as they perform. That’s pretty much what we were going to do with the Evidence Based Model – giving the more successful districts flexibility on spending guidelines, while having less successful districts adhere more closely to the elements that research indicated would improve student achievement. This was an idea championed by former State Superintendent and current Assistant U.S. Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle.
  • The witnesses said the formula should account for poverty, Special Education and English Language Learners.
  • They agreed that Early Childhood Education and wraparound services should be emphasized, especially in high poverty districts. The members of the committee seemed to be in agreement on this, with state Rep. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, speaking most passionately about it. Sykes actually chastised Hanushek for not mentioning the great bang for the buck early childhood education brings. Hanushek apologized for not bringing it up. Quite a moment.
  • Students First, which has caused quite a stir recently by claiming bipartisan bona fides while contributing big money to Republican lawmakers at about the same rate the NRA does, actually talked about how charter schools should have the same level of accountability as traditional public schools – quite in the mainstream nationally, but a new concept in Ohio. Again, this should demonstrate just how far outside the mainstream Ohio’s Charter School movement is.

While I felt very good about these portions, there were significant problems with much of what was said Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Tomorrow: Non-Charter School Issues