Monday, January 29, 2007

Education Amendment (E): The Sentence About Nothing

It’s taken all my willpower not to skip ahead to this. This post is about the most amazing sentence I’ve seen in a piece of legislation, enacted or proposed, EVER. It appears as the last sentence in section (E), the section that governs deposits to and disbursements from the Education Trust Fund. It reads:

No School District or joint vocational school district shall receive any greater amount from the School Trust Fund than that which, when combined with the district’s required School District Local Revenue Contribution, exceeds the amount necessary to ensure the opportunity for a High Quality Education for each of the Public School Pupils of the Public School District for any year.

Sixty words guaranteed to make your head hurt if you read them enough. If you’re like me, you’ll need to read this several times to be confident you’ve really gotten it. Here it is again:

No School District or joint vocational school district shall receive any greater amount from the School Trust Fund than that which, when combined with the district’s required School District Local Revenue Contribution, exceeds the amount necessary to ensure the opportunity for a High Quality Education for each of the Public School Pupils of the Public School District for any year.

If you think you understand what it means except that it can’t mean that because that means nothing, you’ve got it right. For those of you still confused, try it again with the key words highlighted:

No School District or joint vocational school district shall receive any greater amount from the School Trust Fund than that which, when combined with the district’s required School District Local Revenue Contribution, exceeds the amount necessary to ensure the opportunity for a High Quality Education for each of the Public School Pupils of the Public School District for any year.

Weeding out the qualifiers and subclauses it means the following: No district can receive more money than what would be more than what they need. Let the modifiers cancel each other out and it means that a district can get more than they need. You’ve heard of a double negative; this is a double superlative.

I don't know definitively what it is supposed to mean. I can guess, based on some history that I will annoyingly continue to keep confidential, but I don’t know for sure. I do know that someone should be asking. Someone should ask the proponents of the measure what the sentence is supposed to mean. Is it a typo? If it’s a typo, shouldn’t it be fixed before we go gathering signatures?

And if it’s not a typo, what is it? Why does the amendment include a sixty word sentence that means absolutely nothing? W, at the risk of being impertinent, TF?

5 comments:

Jeff said...

R, at risk to my health and safety, OTFLMAO. Everything you promised. Thanks.

Cee Jay said...

Well. here is what I think it means. It means that the state will decide what school districts need and the state is not going to contribute much more than the essentials. If the local district taxpayers increase their property taxes to provide a bit more than the basics provided to all the districts for the bare minimum education, the state will subtract from what they send the district to bring it down to the same low quality as the other districts partially supported by the state.
So, what it means to me is business as usual in OH.

Jill said...

I agree with Ceejay, without the editorializing (although I could do that too - I like it - I'm just trying to pretend that I want to be objective about it - nothing personal meant toward cj)as to what was intended.

I agree with you, Scott, as to what it actually says - which is, the amount to be received must exceed the amount that's necessary.

O.M.G. help us please.

Pho said...

Cee Jay:

I can tell you categorically, that's not the intent. Given the near-absolute power placed in the hands of the State Board, it's a possible outcome, but it's not the intent. If you look back at the definitions of "Educational Components" and "High Quality Education," it's clear that's not the intent.

In any case, if that was the intent, you wouldn't need The Sentence About Nothing to accomplish it. TSAN starts by saying "A school district can't have more than . . . ," then changes course by adding a second qualifyer which ends up with the nonmeaning I outline. You are right that the inclusion of the language about the local share indicates that the sentence sounds like it says something, it just doesn't actually say anything.

Paul said...

I stumbled through this sentence many times as well. Here's what I'm assuming it means: a) it anticipates that the new funding scheme will cause money to be metered out on a per-student basis; b) there will be cases when, due to high local property valuations, the 20 mill local tax plus the anticipated per-student allocation of state funding will cause such a district to get total funding which is beyond that deemed to be appropriate. In such cases, the state funding would be capped.

However, I also read the proposal language to say that local districts can vote in additional levies without affecting state funding.

So net-net, I believe this means that the intention is to set a cap such that the "state funding + 20 mill local levy is no less than X per student and no greater than Y per student"

I fear that once all these kinds of concepts are turned into practice, the funding system created would be no less complicated and no more effective than the current system. In the end, the main issues are: a)whether the Legislature actually funds it; and, b) what happens if they don't.