Week in Review - 03/29/2019

Week in Review - 03/29/2019

EDUCATION

Reps. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) this week unveiled a new school funding formula devised over more than a year by a workgroup of local education officials from throughout the state. They introduced the plan at a Monday press conference and held hearings over three days in the House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee to delve into the details. The plan is meant to define and fund a base cost of education based on national research and an analysis of actual spending patterns by Ohio schools, and offers additional funding pools to address specific needs such as special education, gifted services, and supports for students who are in poverty or aren't native English speakers. It also aims to eliminate the use of funding caps and substantially reduce the number of districts on guarantees. The plan establishes a distribution formula based on a mix of local income and property wealth, with variables built into the calculation to allow it to adapt to changing local circumstances. The plan also would directly fund charter, voucher, and STEM school students, as an alternative to the current pass-through deduction model. It also calls for access to a year of preschool for all economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds. The minimum state share of transportation funding would rise substantially under the proposed formula, supplemented by restoration of grants to help schools replace aging buses. The workgroup delayed the release of hard financial figures underlying the formula for several days after the initial rollout, saying they wanted first to develop understanding of the concept. Aggregate data discussed during legislative hearings indicated districts in general would receive hundreds of dollars in additional per-student funding. Other numbers in the plan are yet to be determined, deferred until cost studies can help to define, for example, a base cost calculation for charter school students or a new funding mechanism for educational service centers.


Addressing school funding is the only issue that Senate Education Chair Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) said will be ahead of fixing academic distress commissions this session. Lehner called the first hearing on SB110 (Manning), the first part of what she said will be an ongoing conversation about 131-HB70 (Brenner), which created academic distress commissions for school districts that have multiple failing grades on report cards.


Lawmakers questioned Superintendent Paolo DeMaria at a Tuesday hearing about the development, planned implementation, and rigor of a new graduation framework endorsed by the State Board of Education. DeMaria briefed the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee on the plan, which the board approved last year and then supplemented with additional guidance recently per the requirements of 132-HB491 (Edwards). The proposal would supplement existing graduation pathways with a new option through which students would demonstrate their knowledge in five areas: English; math; well-rounded content; technology; and leadership, reasoning and social-emotional learning. Students could meet the requirement in a given area through the usual state tests, or by other means such as taking a relevant College Credit Plus course or completing a demonstration project, for example. The proposal also includes a "culminating student experience," in which students would give some sort of presentation that demonstrates their evidence of knowledge and skills and competency in math, writing, and research. It could take the form of a research project, art portfolio, community service project, or career-technical education program, among other options.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) show the February unemployment rate dropped back down to 4.6 percent, after an increase of 0.1 percent in January. The state lost 8,200 jobs over the month, however, from a downwardly revised 5,602,400 in January to 5,594,200 in February. The number of unemployed workers also dropped, from January's 269,000 to February's 265,000. There has been an increase of 8,000 unemployed workers over the past 12 months, though. The February 2018 unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

 The Senate unanimously approved two majority caucus priority proposals: SB4 (Rulli-Kunze) which boosts funding for school facilities and SB7 (Lehner-Hackett) which simplifies professional licensure for service members and their fam