Ohio Gov's plan gets positive response, questions

DAN SEWELL Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Some education reform leaders and other Ohioans said Thursday they were encouraged by what they had seen of Gov. John Kasich's school funding overhaul, while some Democrats said Kasich flunked at offsetting earlier school cuts and at seeking bipartisan input.

The Republican governor's plan offers steps to close disparities in school district revenue bases, increase aid for the costs of educating special needs students, expand school vouchers and reward innovation and efficiency.

"StudentsFirst is encouraged that Gov. Kasich's school funding plan aims to improve educational opportunities for all children," Greg Harris, the group's director, said in a statement. He also praised Kasich's plans to give more school-level flexibility and decision-making, and to help disadvantaged communities close funding gaps.

The nonprofit group Ohio eSchool Families and Friends Coalition praised Kasich's plan to expand school vouchers and support for charter schools, including online schools.

"We're eager to see the details of how exactly Gov. Kasich's new funding formula will work and specifically how facilities funding will be distributed to public charter schools," coalition president Sara Donlon said in a statement.

One southwest Ohio resident said she believes more competition will make public schools better.

"I am a proponent of school choice," said Sharon Poe, of Mason. "In an environment of competitiveness, you know if you're not doing well, you're going to lose students."

But some Democrats and teachers unions criticized the plan for lack of details and their lack of involvement in developing it, and also said it won't undo the damage that schools have suffered from the cuts in funding in recent years.

"It is alarming that Gov. Kasich drafted his proposal in secret, without the input of education stakeholders, and chose to make permanent his historic 2011 cuts," Chris Redfern, Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said in statement. Redfern said Kasich's plan will leave local taxpayers facing even more levies.

Ohio House Democratic leader Armond Budish of Beachwood said Kasich's proposed funding is "a mere drop in the bucket" compared to earlier cuts.

"While I'm anxious to review the details, it appears that Gov. Kasich's much-anticipated education-funding plan simply pads the pockets of unaccountable for-profit charters, while shortchanging Ohio's public school children," Budish said in a statement.

A major business group said the proposal offers progress in shifting the state discussion from calls for more money to how to improve education for children.

"We need better results from our education system, and we need to empower local leaders, school principals, classroom teachers, and those closest to children, especially their moms and dads, to achieve those results," Richard Stoff, CEO of the Ohio Business Roundtable, said in a statement for the group representing major employers around the state.

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