Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Education Agenda, Pt. 2

I’ll get to the first post on the amendment in a bit. First off, let’s talk about the budget. In a normal year, this would be the primary focus of education advocates. We have new Governor, new legislators and a fair amount of term limits inspired House-to-Senate shuffling. In the last budget the General Assembly pretty much hosed the schools. I’ve tightened up the post-budget post to serve as a reference. You can go here for my primary source at the time, here for a CCS look back at 2005 and look forward to 2007, and here for the Ohio Department of Ed's report on the coming budget.

Ted is predicting doom and gloom in the budget this year. He won’t raise taxes (which is good) or roll back the tax cuts from the last cycle (which in some cases is not so good). Taft and co. left him with a mess which will be reflected in slow-to-no growth in the budget.

The temptation among school advocates will be to focus on the amendment as The Answer To All Our Problems. This is wrong. First off, amending the constitution is always difficult and this amendment is fraught with more difficulties than usual. Lets face it, unless the mayors and Governor are on board, this thing is sunk. As it is, the amendment is adrift and taking on water fast.

Even if the amendment were to pass, the phase-in doesn’t start for three years. During those three years, increases are built in that are benchmarked to this budget.

Finally, the budget bill isn’t just about filling pots of money. For example, much of the past charter school legislation has appeared in budget bills. Regardless of whether the amendment passes, the GA could screw things up with more, and less accountable, privatization schemes.

Still, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic that this coming cycle won’t be a complete disaster. First off, last budget cycle saw a higher level of grassroots participation than ever before. The infrastructure is in place to set a new high water mark this time around. This is important because, while any new legislators may have their biases, they nonetheless are educable at this stage in the game in a way they won't be down the line.

Second, some legislators will surely see the last election as a shot across the GA bow. While the seismic results of the elections reflected dissatisfaction with Taft, Bush and the Culture of Corruption®, also polls also showed serious dissatisfaction with the education funding system. Over the last few years Republicans have been following a glide path toward a fully privatized education system. But Ken Blackwell campaigned explicitly on privatization as his education plan and moderates in the party can’t help but notice that voters did not buy what he was selling.

Third, of course, we have the new executive slate, starting with Ted. Bob Taft actually did not completely suck on education – if his budget had passed as proposed last time around, APS for one would have been far better off. But with a Democrat proposing and shepherding the budget, things should be better.

And finally, we have the amendment which, as Willard noted, may give us hand.
So that’s the budget battle. The most optimistic guesses I’ve heard is Strickland proposing the budget in March. I’ll be working on that, posting updates and telling you how you can get involved in the effort.

One last note; you may have noticed that my file label for education posts is "Academically Challenged." I'm working on tabbing old ed. posts as well for easy reference. And more generally, I'll have a post up sometime as a guide for the file labels as most of them are too precious for words.


Jeff said...

Thanks for this. I read your education-related posts with great interest. Keep 'em coming!