Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jennifer Garrison Introduces School Funding Bill

WKSU ran a story tonight on "Your Way Home" that State Rep. Jennifer Garrison (D-Marietta) has introduced a school funding bill. It doesn't purport to reform school funding. Instead, according to the story, it would provide funds to all school districts for all-day kindergarten and would increase parity aid to property-poor districts. As of tonight, the podcast on 'KSU is all I can find on the matter.

Interestingly, this occurs the same day the Marietta School Board announced it would put two levies on the ballot in part to offer all-day kindergarten. The 'KSU story notes that beyond Marietta, Garrison's district includes many of the poorest rural districts in the state.

This has been percolating for a while. On the surface, it seems like a decent start. Certainly, all-day K is one reform with wide support from all sides of the education debate. Until I see the details, I will refrain from calling it devil-free. The problem is that many districts with large populations of economically disadvantaged kids already provide with Povert-Based Assistance money. Akron and the rest of the "Big 8" are among them. If Garrison's plan results in comensurate cut to PBA, it's at best a wash for urban districts. I haven't seen the numbers, but have been told that some urbans could actually see net cuts because of some wrinkles in the school funding formula.

Meanwhile, the parity aid idea does nothing for urbans. At least not now. Given time and the current downward trajectory of Akron property values, who knows. But parity aid goes to property-poor districts. I has helped, though two budget cycles the GA began inexplicably giving a slice of it to charter schools (inexplicable in that charters don't receive property tax money and therefore are not affected by differing property values.)

Garrison's bill is just the beginning. Sens. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) have each made noises about proposing funding formula reforms. Ted's budget comes out in March, as I noted before. And if past experience is a guide, the proposed amendments will spur counterproposals in the legislature.