As every year does, 2021 began with much optimism. Vaccines were rolling out, businesses were reopening, and the economy was on the mend. But then, as always, reality set in. While most Americans were vaccinated, the pandemic dragged on. The economy continued to pick up, but so did inflation. The year in K–12 education followed a similar pattern. As we’ll see from the compilation below, there was disappointing news—most notably around student achievement—but also some significant policy wins that offer hope for a brighter future.
- School funding. Throughout the first half of the year, Ohio lawmakers were busy crafting the state’s biennial budget. In the realm of K–12 education, the school funding formula took center stage, as House lawmakers put forward an ambitious overhaul. After much debate—and a number of tweaks to the original plan—lawmakers enacted a new funding formula. Among the key shifts is a
model for school choice programs, an important structural reform that should help alleviate cross-sector tensions. Legislators also created a new that determines the bulk of the state aid for districts and charter schools. Those calculations create a closer link between educational costs and funding amounts, but they also have the potential to cause in future years. Oh, and remember, the new formula is already expensive, calling for increases of $2 billion per year in state education spending—roughly 15 percent more. Considering that price tag, legislators chose to partially fund that increase over the next two years, leaving decisions about full funding to future General Assemblies.
- Learning loss. Shortly after schools closed in March 2020, analysts began warning about the effects of remote instruction on student learning. In the following months, various data pointed to serious academic troubles. Students not logging in for éphane Lavertu estimated that, when compared to prior cohorts, students lost about one-third to a full year of learning, depending on grade and subject. On average, low-income and minority children lost more ground, worsening pre-pandemic achievement gaps. There’s no time to despair, as the clock is ticking to get students back on track and ready for life after high school.
- Critical race theory. In something of a surprise, one of the biggest stories of the past year was CRT. Believing that identity politics and “woke” versions of history were filtering into elementary and secondary schools, conservatives voiced concerns in board meetings and beyond. Progressives pushed back, arguing that the fears were overblown, or that heeding those demands would force teachers to bypass certain topics. The ruckus drew the attention of Statehouse lawmakers who
- Educational choice. To end on a high note, this was a big year for school choice in the Buckeye State and . Let’s count the ways that lawmakers strengthened choice in Ohio. One, they removed caps on the number of available EdChoice scholarships and raised the private school . Two, they increased the supplemental funding available to , doubled the state’s , and removed the on charters. Three, they provided modest to parents who either homeschool their children or enroll their children in a non-chartered private school. Four, they launched to encourage individual giving that opens more nonpublic school options. And five, they created an that helps low- and middle-income parents access afterschool and enrichment programs. All told, these remarkable steps continue to empower more Ohio parents with the quality choices their children deserve.
With that, we at the Ohio Gadfly close the books on 2021. Keep up to date with all that’s happening in the new year by bookmarking our, following our , and subscribing . Cheers!