The Cleveland Plain Dealer has an article in the Monday, May 28, 2007, edition about how Maryland funds public education. Maryland's approach to school funding is a model for the approach being taken by groups which are supporting an Ohio ballot initiative this fall. The approach is described in the article as follows:
The Ohio amendment would charge the State Board of Education with deciding the components and cost of a high-quality education. The legislature and the governor then would be required to find a way to pay for it.
In contrast, Ohio now sets aside an amount of money for schools based on available revenue rather than determining what is needed. The state share is combined with a local share that mostly comes from property taxes. It's a system in which districts with eroding tax bases can be left in the lurch. Even districts in affluent communities are forced to ask voters to raise property taxes every few years to maintain their funding levels.
One thing that Ohio has lacked, according to the proponents of this plan, is any idea on how much a child's education should cost. Given the fact that Ohio now requires students to pass proficiency tests to graduate, and given the fact that the material those tests cover is state mandated, it shouldn't be hard for the state to figure out what would be the cost of providing an education to make sure a child learns the mandated material. So far, though, Ohio's state government has rejected such an approach.
What's interesting about Ohio's approach is that the state government under Republican rule has had no hesitation in telling local school districts what material they should teach. Nor has the General Assembly had any problems with telling children that if they don't learn what the state believes they should learn, then they can't graduate. The state has, however, hesitated in telling educators, parents, and children what the cost is per child of providing an education that will allow children to meet state-required proficiency standards.
Here is the bottom line: if the state is going to require a certain level of proficiency from its students before they can get a diploma, then it is only fair that the state make sure that each child's school district have the resources to provide that level of education. It is impossible for parents to know whether the state is providing such resources unless they know the cost of such resources. No matter what solution is found for funding education in Ohio, the first step should be ascertaining the cost of providing an education to allow children to meet the state's proficiency standards. If Maryland can do it, why can't Ohio?
Cross-posted at www.medinacountycommonsense.com