Monday, January 04, 2010

Strickland, House Dems Gamble with Education

COLUMBUS— One year to the day House Democrats took the majority, State Representatives Jarrod Martin (R-Beavercreek), Seth Morgan, CPA, (R-Huber Heights), and Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) summarized the 2009 legislative year as time of unfunded mandates on schools and damaging funding cuts to poorer districts, charter schools, e-schools and Catholic schools. Additionally, rather than streamlining state spending to ensure adequate funding for education, Governor Strickland chose to fund K-12 education with unstable revenue from video lottery terminals, an unconstitutional plan that eventually failed and put Ohio’s education system at risk.

“Throughout this economic turmoil, lawmakers Republican or Democrat need to remain committed to ensuring a bright future for Ohio’s students,” said Martin. “The political pandering and aggressive tone that threatened devastating cuts to education was a clear demonstration of partisanship by Governor Strickland and House Democrats who carelessly placed the reductions on education before examining other bloated areas of the Executive branch or legislature.”

House Democrats managed to cut state education funding by nearly $400 million over the next two years, the first time since the DeRolph case of 1997 that the Legislature recommended education funding cuts. They also imposed costly mandates on schools by requiring the implementation of all-day kindergarten starting in the 2010-2011 school year, which many districts have said they could not afford in this economy.

“Recognizing that education is central to Ohio’s long-term success,” said Morgan. “House Republicans proposed numerous ideas to increase Ohio’s chances of receiving federal funding through the Race to the Top program, preserve school choice, and alleviate oppressive mandates on districts. They also introduced a number of amendments to the budget to improve the governor’s evidence-based model.”

The Ohio Department of Development has estimated that establishing all-day kindergarten in Ohio’s 613 school districts will cost more than $200 million, including $127 million in operating costs and $78 million for classroom space. House Republicans avow that enforcing this mandate on already-struggling schools will force many to cut programs or extracurricular activities to be able to afford the mandate.

“I will continue to fight to save the taxpayers of Ohio money, and to cut wasteful government spending, while protecting our most valuable asset, the future of Ohio-our children’s education,” said Stebelton. “I was disheartened by the inept leadership in Columbus to threaten our schools and even libraries while budget discussions were still going on.”

However, House Democrats have silenced many Republican initiatives since the beginning of the General Assembly. Although the Ohio House has been plagued by stalemates and inaction in 2009, House Republicans remain hopeful that 2010 will bring bipartisan discussions about Ohio’s future and how to responsibly bring our education system into the 21st century economy.