Oct
11

TEN IDEAS: Revolutionize School Funding, Incrementally

It’s a constant refrain during election season: “Ohio’s school funding is unconstitutional. What are you going to do about it?”

Then, you’re likely to hear a politician deliver a platitude about “valuing education” and “investing in kids.”

Sounds good, but without concrete proposals, the DeRolph Era will continue to perpetuity. We will continue to have a formula that arbitrarily shafts districts like Woodridge. Districts will continue to require “pay to play” for sports and activities, and will continue to reduce busing service. Senior citizens will continue to battle the constantly rising property taxes, while their income remains flat.

Here’s my unfiltered take on the current state of affairs:

  • It’s abysmal that school districts must ask voters’ permission to fund necessities, such as building maintenance.
  • It’s immoral that senior citizens must regularly decide between the schools and their budget.
  • It’s incredible that the state’s complex funding formula still can’t get it right, in spite of its many caps, guarantees, and variables.

NO MORE PLATITUDES. IT’S TIME TO BLOW IT ALL UP.

I am proposing to shift school funding away from property taxes and toward statewide consumption taxes. Ultimately, the new revenue stream will be sufficient to fund 100% of our K-12 education needs. How do we define our “needs”? We need to constantly be among the top 10 states in school funding. The shift should take place incrementally over the next ten years, so that we can adjust the tax collections to match this number.

What does this mean for you?

  • If you’re a senior citizen, you will be relieved from the constant squeeze of property taxes. In fact, we are going to reduce your property taxes significantly. While people cannot control property taxes, they can control what sales taxes they pay.
  • If you’re a parent, you can count on the state’s assurance of adequate funding, rather than counting on the levy campaign’s success every few years.
  • If you’re a district like Woodridge, where the state share index is an inexplicably low 18%, you are now relieved of a funding formula that has frequent anomalous results.
  • If you’re a student, you can count on the state providing free activities (sports, band, clubs), ordinary busing service, and other basics that previous generations enjoyed.

Other comments on the plan:

  • Obviously, this post is giving a high-level view of the plan. The actual legislation would be complex and include percentages that are subject to negotiation.
  • I would like to maintain a community’s ability to assess a property tax levy–but it should be strictly limited to luxuries, not necessities, because necessities are going to be covered by the state’s additional consumption tax revenue.
  • I would like to completely separate the funding for charter schools from the funding for public schools. Currently, if a student leaves a district to enroll at a charter school, that child’s funding goes with her, but so does some funding that the district never received in the first place. While the district pays out $6,000 to the charter school–the district only received a fraction of that amount with respect to that student (equal to $6,000 x state-share index). The district is worse off than if that student never enrolled in the first place. If we want to fund charters, we need to hold our public schools harmless.

I want you to know: This won’t be easy. If we implement a system like this, it would be the state’s most ambitious education reform in decades.

But I’m not going down to the State House to be just another empty suit. I’m going to be a difference-maker, and I’m going to battle for the future of our kids.

Oct
8

TEN IDEAS: Address the Child Care Deficit

One of the most under-reported problems in our society is the desperate need for child care. It’s costly, in short supply, and in high demand. Another matter is the number of single mothers who would like to work, but whose work would not be economical, after factoring in child care costs and the loss in government benefits resulting from the increase in income. In the absence of child care (and consequently, income), the government steps in to provide wrap-around benefits.

This situation needs to be rectified. And we can do it.

I would like to offer child-care training vouchers to single mothers living in certain low-income regions (i.e., the ones labeled by the IRS as “Opportunity Zones”). Rather than losing government benefits as a single mother earns income, I would like for those benefits to be converted to funds placed into a 529 education account for her children (which can be withdrawn tax-free for private school or college tuition costs). I would expand the Publicly Funded Child Care program, so the single mother would not need to worry about paying for child care–either while she is training to become a child-care provider, or while she is working as one.

This won’t be a revolutionary move. However, in taking these reasonably inexpensive steps, we have re-engaged many more Ohioans into the work force. By increasing the supply of child care, we have lowered the cost of child care for Ohioans of all socioeconomic classes. Perhaps of greatest value, by bolstering the Publicly Funded Child Care Program, we will expose more children to a learning environment from a young age, which will help close the education gap between them and those children who grow up in wealthier neighborhoods.

Child care is not a job for everyone. So this won’t be a program that will help every impoverished single mother. But it’s another tool in my toolbox to help eliminate generational poverty.

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