School Board Stakes Out Report Card Stance, Delays Vote to Endorse Funding Plan

The State Board of Education (SBOE) narrowly adopted a resolution Tuesday expressing its position on report card reforms as lawmakers in both chambers debate the issue. The board also delayed a proposed vote to endorse a school funding system in line with the main elements of the Cupp-Patterson plan -- which House lawmakers rolled into the budget bill Tuesday -- in favor of a deeper review by the board’s Legislative Committee.

The board voted 10-7 in favor of a resolution on report cards from the Legislative Committee, which met twice last week to review legislative reform proposals in HB200 (Jones-Robinson) and SB145 (Brenner) and evaluate them in the context of the board’s strategic plan. (See The Hannah Report, 4/5/21, 4/8/21.)

The resolution urges elimination of the A-F rating system and replacement with a new rating system that’s “clear and easy” for families to understand; supports adoption of a new Equity component to highlight performance of student groups to ensure schools are accountable for achievement of all students; supports restructuring of the Prepared for Success component into a single tier and adding measures of college, career and life preparedness, with consideration of how accessible each option is to all school districts; structuring components so all students are included and opposing components designed to exclude any population, specifically with regard to the effect of student mobility on the K-3 literacy component; and supporting a K-3 literacy measure that recognizes promotion and proficiency, as well as the need to acknowledge district improvement.

Board President Laura Kohler and Vice President Charlotte McGuire granted emergency authorization for the board to consider the resolution in the same month it passed committee. Board member Steve Dackin, chair of the Legislative Committee, said emergency consideration was warranted based on comments at the day’s meeting about the pace of legislative deliberations on the bill from Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), sponsor of SB145 and chair of the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee, as well as Marjorie Yano, legislative director for the Ohio Department of Education.

Board member Christina Collins said approving the resolution would provide direction for Yano and Superintendent Paolo DeMaria to advocate for the board’s positions as the bills progress.

Board member Diana Fessler opposed the resolution, saying she hadn’t yet been able to read the bills or Legislative Service Commission analyses of them, and adding that the board shouldn’t think too highly of itself or its influence with the Legislature. “It is my understanding we are not held in high esteem,” she said.

Board member Mike Toal also spoke in opposition, saying effective measurement of educational performance is one of the board’s primary responsibilities. “You will never have equity until you measure; it’s impossible,” he said.

The resolution passed with support from Kohler, McGuire, Dackin, Collins and board members Meryl Johnson, Paul LaRue, Martha Manchester, Tim Miller, Antoinette Miranda and Michelle Newman. In opposition were Fessler, Toal and members John Hagan, Kirsten Hill, Jenny Kilgore, Eric Poklar and Brendan Shea.

Kohler and McGuire denied a request from board member Meryl Johnson to bring up an immediate vote on her resolution on school funding, and a vote to override that decision failed on a vote of 6-11. It was instead referred to the Legislative Committee for evaluation.

The House Finance Committee on Tuesday incorporated language from the latest iteration of the Cupp-Patterson plan, HB1 (Callender-Sweeney), into a substitute version of the budget bill, HB110 (Oelslager). (See separate story, this issue.)

The resolution states support for the funding plan because of increases in state funding support; development of a base cost for educating a child; using a blend of property and income wealth to define local funding capacity; increases in funding for certain categories of student, including those in poverty; increases in state funding for transportation; an end to the deduction method for funding charter schools and vouchers; and establishment of a commission to review ongoing effectiveness of the plan.

Ahead of the board’s consideration of the resolution, members heard comments in favor of an endorsement resolution during the public testimony portion of the meeting from witnesses including former Rep. John Patterson, a central figure in developing the plan, and William Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, whose work helped to bring about the landmark DeRolph rulings in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Brenner had urged the board not to act yet, noting members had yet to see what the Senate would deliver in its version of the budget bill. He did tell Johnson he supports the plan’s proposal for funding choice programs directly rather than via the deduction method.

Hagan also urged delay to allow further evaluation of the details. “I think letting this sit until next month’s meeting is not a bad plan at all. That may be too soon, but it’s certainly not too late,” he said.

Dackin said as a former district superintendent he finds the predictability the Cupp-Patterson plan offers alluring, but said he knows both chambers ultimately need to agree on something and would like the chance to see what the Senate does and evaluate the proposals in the context of the strategic plan, as was the case with the report card legislation.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on April 13, 2021.  Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.