Voters in the Columbus Schools area who were hoping to see a ballot initiative in November will be disappointed. The Campaign for Ohio’s Future, a group made up of 12 separate educational groups, simply ran out of time to collect all the signatures needed to put their proposal on the 2007 November ballot. Supporters in the Columbus Schools had hoped that the proposal would shift financial obligations from the local community to the state, and improve the quality of public education.
Over 400,000 signatures were required; the group managed to collect 150,000 before deciding to put the program on the back burner. They say they will try again in 2008. But not everyone in Columbus Schools, or in Ohio, supports the proposal. One of the most notable opponents is Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. The Governor is seeking legislative methods to fix the problems of Ohio and Columbus Schools. Still, the disappointment felt by many in the Columbus Schools, and its surrounding communities, is apparent.
Bob Greenwood, superintendent of the East Guernsey district, about 80 miles east of Columbus Schools, has said, “It is very disappointing. We just had $8 million of cuts to balance our budget and are to the point where we can’t cut anymore.” This is concerning as Ohio and Columbus Schools strive to meet national mandates and stretch state funds. Ohio is currently 9th in the nation for graduation rates, and 15th in terms of teacher pay. Columbus Schools benefit from the $8,963 per pupil expenditure that places the state 16th highest in student spending.
Educators in Columbus Schools realize that in terms of national standards they are at the better end of the continuum, in terms of available funds. But administrators in Columbus Schools are well aware that that doesn’t mean the funds are enough, or even that money alone can address all of the issues.
Governor Strickland, the Ohio Business Roundtable, and the Ohio Education Association are trying to create different legislative initiatives to fix Ohio and Columbus Schools. Local districts like Columbus Schools are hopeful that their input will be sought before final decisions are made. The issue of transferring the major burden of funding from local taxpayers in Columbus Schools to the state has numerous ramifications. It pits Columbus Schools and other Ohio districts against each in competition for the funds. But this is not unusual in the world of public education funding.
One of the biggest trends nationally is for large corporations to fund public school systems. So it’s not surprising that part of the Governor’s team includes an Ohio business organization. Columbus Schools and the other districts in Ohio will wait for both the Governor’s proposal, and to see if the Campaign for Ohio’s Future will present their proposal in 2008.