|Hamilton County, OH||November 3, 1998 General|
School Funding: Solving the Crisis with Existing Means
By Bob TaftCandidate for Governor
This information is provided by the candidate
Taft responds to the defeat of Issue 2, a measure to fund the state's new school funding formula, offering his proposal to fund and improve schools with existing resources.The people have spoken. They have said no to higher taxes, but they did not say no school improvement. And neither will I. I will work tirelessly to make school improvement and better management of school resources the highest priority in Ohio during the next four years, as I have already done so during this campaign.
I believe H.B. 650, together with the other measures passed by the legislature to improve academic achievement and increase school funding, responds fully to the Ohio Supreme Court's decision in the DeRolph case.
The voters have now given us the challenge of funding the new formula within existing resources. We will get this done.
Make no mistake about it, this will be a major management challenge, but one that presents great opportunity for the next Governor - opportunity to set priorities, exercise strong fiscal discipline, streamline government operations, and scrutinize every area of government for efficiency and effectiveness.
Governing is about setting priorities and carrying them out. As Ohio's next Governor, and as a former teacher, my top priority will be to improve the quality of education and fund schools first.
Year one (FY 1999) of H.B. 650 is already fully funded. The next four years will be dealt with in budgets of my administration.
My goal is to help Ohio families by improving education and fully funding Ohio's schools without raising taxes. And here is how we'll do it.
Fund Schools Through Better Management
We will rely on strong fiscal management to limit the growth of non-education spending and on common-sense tax and regulatory policies to help keep our economy healthy and our revenues growing.
Assuming stable economic conditions, it is my view that spending growth controls, coupled with continued strong revenue growth, will allow Ohio to fully fund H.B. 650 school funding levels in FY 2000-2001 biennial budget. This will be challenging but it is manageable.
I say this with a long record of strong fiscal management. As Assistant Director of the Budget Bureau in Illinois, I gained first-hand experience early in my career in controlling the cost of government. When I became county commissioner, the county was experiencing a budget crisis due to the national economic recession, but we made the tough decisions, cut departments across the board, and balanced our budget every year without raising the county sales tax or the general fund property tax. And as Secretary of State, I have reduced the bureaucracy in the office by 30% and kept budget increases below the rate of inflation.
To fund schools through better management, I'll take the following actions:
1. Immediately upon taking office, I will issue an Executive Order to impose a hiring freeze on state employment.
2. I will reduce the number of cabinet departments to improve services and reduce state overhead costs. I have already instructed my policy staff to develop plans for cabinet consolidation. The results of this effort will be announced later this year.
3. I will appoint a Management Improvement Commission to conduct a systematic review of all government programs. This commission will draw on the expertise of the private sector, as well as the thoughts and suggestions of those who know the most about government operations: Ohio's state employees.
This commission will be charged to conduct a top-to-bottom review of government and to provide recommendations for significant budget savings. But this Management Improvement Commission will go beyond previous operation improvement studies. It will do more than just look at the efficiency of programs. It will also ask more fundamental questions: Do we need this program? Is the program fulfilling a proper role of government? Can the private sector meet the need in a more effective and efficient way?
4. To improve public confidence and awareness of school funding, I will ask Auditor of State Jim Petro to appoint an "education funding watchdog" to make sure that all education monies, including those derived from the State Lottery, are used for education, and to issue a report each year on the disposition of lottery profits, comparing them to total school spending.
I will ask Auditor Petro to examine school district administrative expenses and to make recommendations to reduce overhead costs and use savings in the classroom. For example, we may find that significant savings can be generated when more school districts expand joint purchasing of goods and services. This task should be accomplished as an additional part of the Auditor's School Performance Audits.
5. Because much of the growth of school bureaucracy can be attributed to excessive federal and state regulation and red tape, I am reiterating my call for a School Improvement and Mandate Relief Summit to be convened in December. The purpose of this meeting will be to generate ideas on how the state can help local school districts improve academic achievement, while also developing suggestions to reduce the regulatory burden on schools, thereby freeing up more money to be used in the classroom.
Simply put, we must get more bang for our educational buck. We need to force money out of the school bureaucracy and into the classroom where real learning occurs. Since 1987, the number of school administrators has increased far faster than the number of teachers. In fact, teachers account for a lower percentage of total school district employees today, while the number of non-teaching staff has increased by 13.9% in the last ten years.
Finally, no matter how difficult budgetary decisions may become, I will maintain my principles and priorities. My budget priorities include a commitment to children and to education generally - from early education right through our colleges and universities. Education is Ohio's best opportunity for individual and economic success in the 21st century.
Repair School Buildings Now
Over the past seven years, I have had the opportunity to visit over 140 schools throughout Ohio. Some have been in excellent condition with the most up-to-date technology. Others are in dire need of repair, renovation or replacement. As I have stated many times, there can be no more important use of our scarce dollars than to provide a warm, safe environment for children to learn.
So today, I am calling on the legislature to provide at least $500 million in new money in the upcoming capital budget for school building renovation, repair and construction. In addition, I am calling on the legislature to use $100 million from the state's combined rainy day funds to provide for urgently needed repairs and renovations of school facilities. By doing so, we can provide urgently needed funds to schools without going below the five percent savings threshold.
I am also committing today to set aside at least $1.2 billion in the capital budgets of my first administration for school buildings. This means that under my proposal, a minimum of $1.8 billion in state funds will be available to rebuild our schools over the next six years.
It's time to move beyond the debate about school funding and focus on the real challenge of raising the level of academic achievement so every child is prepared to succeed in today's job market.
What's more important than the amount of money we put into our schools is the kind of student who comes out of them. That's why I have already announced initiatives to make sure that all Ohio children read at grade level at the end of the 4th grade, to provide more training for teachers to better use technology in their classroom, to restore order and discipline in schools, to expand Tech-Prep programs, and to make computer literacy a requirement for high school graduation.
And I want to call upon parents and citizens all across Ohio to become more involved in supporting schools and providing meaningful relationships and experiences for our youth. We need more volunteers, mentors, tutors, and after school activities. It takes far more than schools to education children.
It is these measures - not just the amount of money we spend - which will improve education and provide Ohio with the type of skilled workforce needed to attract the high paying jobs of the future.
Over the past year, the school funding debate has caused friction and discord, the likes of which we have not seen in some time. It has pitted Republican against Republican, Democrat against Democrat, educator against educator, and city against suburb. Worst of all, in too many instances, this issue has resulted in a breakdown in communication between elected officials of our state and the people on the front lines of education. That is not good for schools, it is not good for students, and in the long run, it is not good for Ohio.
In the weeks and months ahead, we must rebuild the bridges of communication. We must find common ground and work together to improve the education of our children. I will be contacting education leaders this week to begin the dialogue. Maureen O'Connor and I will be touring Ohio the next few days where we will meet with teachers, students, administrators and parents to discuss how we can help improve our schools.
I will name a School Improvement Advisory Group to advise me and my campaign on education issues and to begin preparing for our December Summit. This group will include parents, school administrators, teachers, students and representatives from the private sector.
This is my plan. It is a common-sense response to a challenging situation. It is a plan that fully funds our schools, demands fiscal discipline and management innovation. It is a plan that puts school improvement first, while recognizing the financial pressure facing Ohio's families. It is a plan I will implement as Ohio's next Governor because nothing is more important than the education of our children.
Position Paper 2
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