Ohio has received high marks from researchers looking into how public education funding is handled. But tell that to officials and taxpayers in financially beleaguered school districts. They understand that good grades in a national study are one thing, but the reality of not being able to balance a district's budget is something else.
Just three states - Ohio, New Jersey and Utah - received "A" grades for education financing in a study by Rutgers University and the Education Law Center. The ELC is an advocacy group interested in ensuring students from low-income families and relatively poor school districts receive adequate state funding.
On paper, Ohio seems to do a good job of supporting districts with limited ability to fund schools through local taxes. But educators, state legislators and Gov. John Kasich understand much more needs to be done to ensure every Buckeye State student has access to quality schools. The issue is being studied in both the General Assembly and the governor's office.
Often, advocates for school reform maintain more money across the board is the answer. That is simply not true. "The idea that if you just throw more money at something, that somehow that's going to make the system better is false," Kasich insisted during a press conference earlier this month.
Utah - again, one of just three states the recent study gave a top grade for how education funding is allocated - validates that philosophy. Utah spends about two-thirds what Ohio does on public education, on a per-pupil basis ($7,379 in 2009, the last year for which the study reported numbers, compared to $10,625 in Ohio).
Yet average scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests are comparable between the two states. For example, fourth-grade mathematics scores on the NAEP test this year averaged 283 in Utah and 289 in Ohio. Eighth-grade reading averages were 267 in Utah and 268 in Ohio.
Thoughtful Ohioans understand massive changes are needed in both how public schools are financed and the methods they use to get results. Simply throwing more cash at the problem will accomplish just one thing: It will use up more taxpayers' money at the state level, probably making it more difficult for local school districts to gain approval of tax levies they may need desperately.
When Kasich and legislators release a plan for reform, possibly later this year, the foundation of it needs to be real change -not just more funding.