- Updating the voucher groucher saga, the other shoe finally dropped earlier this week when the Senate at last refused to concur in the House’s Christmas stocking full of groucher-friendly amendments to a previous Senate bill about whose original purpose no one cares at all. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/12/20) The next logical step for
those amendmentsthat bill would seemingly be a Senate-led conference committee, but since the House is already running a rather exhaustingexhaustive set of joint hearings on their own bill, maybe not? The chair of the Senate Education Committee says there are “essential sticking points” still to be worked out between the chambers. That’s probably code for something. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/13/20) Those hearings are ongoing—including over the weekend and on President’s Day—and are attracting a lot of testimony. House Democrats held a little press conference the other day in which they reiterated their stance on voucher issues. The headline of this brief piece says the Dems want to “maintain choice”. I wasn’t there, but I really don’t think Rep. Sykes said that at all based on the quotes. (Statehouse News Bureau, 2/13/20) A more detailed version of that presser indicates that the voucher issue really is just an irksome sideshow to the House Democrats, and an impediment to what they really would like to be getting on with. Especially since, as Rep. Sykes put it, the voucher impasse is really just the House and Senate Republican leadership squabbling with one another like children. Charming. (Gongwer Ohio, 2/13/20)
- Speaking of House and Senate Republicans, the Mannings (Sen. Nathan and his mother, Rep. Gayle) are out here complaining that they haven’t yet managed to end Academic Distress Commissions, even after multiple attempts to amend the heck out of a bunch bills. Almost like they are trying to do it all by themselves with no other support. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/12/20)
- Another day, another school district finding something to do with their new student wellness money other than building an empty room. And by productive, I mean funding a counselor to help their students in need. (Record-Courier, 2/12/20) Instead of doing that, the Voucher Grouchers extraordinaire in Washington Local Schools chose to send their student wellness money to their general fund, and to blame EdChoice—not their ongoing deficit spending—for it. (Toledo Blade, 2/13/20) It is passed over quickly in the previous story, but Washington Local’s treasurer noted there is a specific and pressing need for using that wellness money to shore up the general fund. It is that the district is imminently set to borrow $50 million dollars and a depleted general fund (due to ongoing deficit spending) would negatively impact their credit rating. In this companion piece, we are reminded that the good people of Washington Local just voted Yes on a combined 3-mill bond levy and 3.9-mill operating levy in November to finance a huge project to build two new school buildings. “The bond is for 37 years and is projected to raise about $50 million to qualify the district for $178 million in state funding.” I wonder if the district’s dire financial situation was made clear to those good-hearted voters back in November? I also wonder if this construction project, which among other things consolidates two existing elementary schools into one, is planning for less students or more? If I were a taxpayer in the Washington Local district, I would have questions. Or I’d just hope to get a voucher and leave. (Toledo Blade, 2/13/20) I assume the taxpayers in Waterloo Local School District in Portage County must have all the information they need, because they have been rejecting district property and income tax levies on nearly every ballot for the last four years. And despite protestations of lots of substantive (and damaging, they say) budget cuts already made, the district is still in such dire straits that the state has placed them under fiscal caution. The superintendent is quick to say that this is not a “state takeover,” but it does mean that “we’ll have more hoops we’ll have to jump through and more things to answer to the state to make sure we’re being fiscally responsible, as we would be doing anyways, but any decisions we make will be with ODE in mind. They’ll say this is a local decision, but I would say they’re allowing it to be a local decision, but we’re making it together.” Hmmm… Another income tax attempt is on the ballot for March. If the levy fails, then supe says more cuts will come…along with more state oversight. And I’m sure you’re thinking that if it passes, the district will kiss its four leaf clover, thank its lucky stars, and then be super prudent with the new money. Right? Nope! “…[If] it passes, we’ll bring a lot of it [the previously-cut stuff] back.” Cha-CHING! (Record Courier, 2/13/20)
- Speaking of bringing things back, Jennifer Adair, the new president of the Columbus City Schools’ board of education, says she wants to prioritize efforts to regain public trust in the district. There’s only a small amount of discussion here as to where that trust might have gone, and that focuses on the previous board prez who was quoted as having said that the district had taken a beating from the local media and had to contend with “misinformation, disinformation and outright lies”. So, perhaps the public was just induced to misplace their trust rather than having actually lost it. Who knows? Luckily, Adair said it is time for the school board to take a different approach. “It’s about being a grown up and saying we have things to work on.” Unfortunately, the thing she mentions most prominently is getting more money. Every other “fix” must follow after that, it seems. (ABC6, Columbus, 2/13/20)
- Meanwhile, the Youngstown branch of the NAACP has some serious concerns about the number of fights occurring in Youngstown City Schools, and about the district’s response to them. Various school board members have varying responses to the NAACP’s concerns. (Vindy.com, 2/13/20)
- Meanwhile, in Cuyahoga Falls City Schools, the party’s over. ALL of the parties. (WKYC-TV, Cleveland, 2/14/20)
Did you know you can have every edition of Gadfly Bites sent directly to your Inbox? Subscribe by clicking.