LWVO Education Advocacy Agenda
Education Advocacy Focus – 2021
Public education and democracy go hand in hand. The Founding Fathers understood that an educated electorate was essential to self-governance. They believed that the only way to ensure equal access to education, was for the state to fund and operate a public system that is free and open to all. Every state constitution makes a provision for a public system of education. It is a paramount function of state government that it shares with local school districts.
LWVO supports the Ohio Constitution and the significance of a high quality, publicly funded, system of public schools because the public system benefits students, communities, and democracy. In recent years education policy has become politicized, with pressure to retreat from its service to the common good in favor of individual rights and a reduced role for government. The state role in education policy has also shifted from ensuring adequate inputs needed for a high quality system, to test-based accountability. Another important change is that public funds are now used for private and religious education, and are not accountable to locally elected boards of education that ensure that public purposes are met. These options have always been allowed but at the individual’s expense.
In the News
At last, a school funding plan that is fair by Susan Kaeser - 03/13/2021
Bill Analysis - from the Ohio LSC
Fair School Funding Plan Presentation - note that Sub H.B. 305 was re-introduced as HB1 this GA.
LWVO’s K-12 education advocacy highlights the critical role of public education in a democracy. We participate in the legislative process, inform and mobilize our members, and inform the public about relevant policies in state government. Where needed, we urge local school district leaders to do the same. Our work focuses on three substantive priorities where legislative remedies are needed to advance educational opportunity in Ohio:
School Funding –
Public education funding is the shared responsibility of state government and local communities. The state role is to make sure that all school districts have adequate resources to fund a high quality education. Ideally, the basic cost of education is defined by the actual cost of providing a carefully defined set of components for quality. The state funding system then accounts for the capacity of each community to pay for the basic cost. The state contributes more to districts with less capacity. This “formula” funding helps to ensure equal opportunity. The current funding system, however, has been broken for a long time, falling short since a judge ruled in a lawsuit filed in 1991 and first decided in 1997, that the state did not invest enough and did not distribute that investment in a way that adequately equalizes opportunities. It relies too heavily on locally raised property taxes. Because both property wealth and income vary from school district to school district, property taxes generate different resources and fuel funding inequality and unfair tax burdens.
The 134th General Assembly has the opportunity to fix the system that has continued to fall short since the first DeRolph decision in 1997 found the system to be unconstitutional. The Fair School Funding Plan, a solid, bipartisan proposal that Rep. John Patterson and Rep. Bob Cupp shepherded through a painstaking design process that started in 2017, was reintroduced for legislative action in February 2021. This is the third try to pass the carefully crafted law. LWVO will advocate for the Fair School Funding Plan during this legislative session. It addresses critical issues that make the system fair, advance equity, and offer significant relief from the cost of private education options.
Starting in 2001 with federal law known as No Child Left Behind, testing became a centerpiece of federal and state laws designed to provide students a high-quality education. This approach uses scores on standardized tests to assess student learning, to define education quality, and to motivate educators to do a better job. Over time, Ohio has attached a variety of consequences to the results of its standardized tests and issues an annual report card on individual schools and districts based on test results. Ohio uses test scores to define if a child advances to 4th grade or if a high school student graduates, how a teacher is evaluated, where EdChoice vouchers are available, and if an elected board of education retains its authority to govern a school district.
The focus on measurement and judgment is highly problematic because the tests themselves are unreliable and narrow measures of quality. They are known to reflect the income level of test takers more accurately than what a student or group of students has mastered. The high stakes consequences incentivize a focus on raising test scores more than improving teaching and learning. This emphasis damages the quality of life in the classroom and undermines the greater purposes of education.
While standardized tests have a place in informing instruction and providing a snapshot of student progress, they are neither accurate nor robust enough for making significant decisions. Our advocacy will follow legislation that is designed to end the use of standardized tests to award vouchers, to end an elected board of education’s governance responsibilities, to retain students or prohibit graduation, or to evaluate teachers.
We are currently tracking several bills that focus on the state’s testing program and its consequences:
Senate Bill 37 - Revise 2020-2021 Education Law due to COVID-19
House Bill 40 - Provide exemptions from state report cards
House Bill 54 - Dissolve academic stress commissions
House Bill 67 - Seek waiver from federal testing requirements
House Bill 100 - Dissolve existing academic distress commissions
LWVO supports public education, a primary duty of state government, and opposes the proliferation of education options that take people and resources from the public system. The Legislature, despite its Constitutional obligation to provide for a system of common schools, has since 1997 allowed for the steady growth of education entities that are not answerable to publicly elected boards of education. There are now five separate voucher programs, and more than 350 charter schools in Ohio.
LWVO opposes vouchers, and, because charter schools are defined as part of the public system, expects accountability that is commensurate with public schools. Advocacy will focus on changing voucher funding and accountability, and improved charter school oversight.
LWVO advocacy is guided by the set of positions approved each year by the members of Leagues across Ohio. Those positions are then reported in the Agenda for Action.
Here is a summary of positions that guide the education advocacy focus for 2021.
School Funding Positions
LWVO believes that public funds should be used only for public schools.
LWVO supports a guarantee by the state of a realistic level of per pupil expenditure in all school districts…
State aid should be distributed to compensate for variations among school districts in their ability to raise local revenue to fund education.
The state aid formula should be calculated to reflect the income wealth of school districts.
The state aid formula should be calculated to reflect:
The actual costs to school districts for state-mandated programs;
Meeting the educational needs of the children within the district;
Consideration of the economic/geographic characteristics of school districts statewide.
Individual school districts should be required to assume a responsible share of the financial burden and should retain the option of increasing per pupil expenditure beyond this level through local taxes.
Test-based Accountability Positions
Standardized assessments should not be used for high-stakes determinations such as grade promotion or graduation requirements.
Standardized assessments should not be a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of teachers or administrators.
Funding should not be tied to standardized test performance.
Standardized testing … should be limited in frequency.
Education Privatization Positions
LWVO opposes vouchers.
LWVO supports a funding system for public elementary and secondary education that is accountable and responsive to the taxpayers. LWVO believes that public funds should be used only for public schools.
Ohio provides for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality school system as the paramount duty of the state. The locally elected school board is constitutionally established to provide oversight and direction to the educational system in each district. The school board should have the authority and the responsibility to require fiscal, management and procedural accountability and enforcement of charter terms and conditions.