January 21, 2007

Ohio Schools: An Economy-Crippling Power Grab

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:33 pm

It’s definitely worth noticing when the Cleveland Plain Dealer has a problem (HT to an anonymous e-mailer) with an education and tax proposal because it’s too expensive and “controversial.”

And that is indeed the case:

School Funding
Just as Ohio’s conversation takes a new, hopeful turn, old, familiar, self-serving voices blurt non-solutions
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Never have the prospects for Ohio school funding reform looked more promising.The state has a new governor committed to reform and many lawmakers at least willing to consider it.So, with the conditions ripe for reform, along comes the movement’s most ardent advocates to mount their latest self-defeating stunt. Not only have reform advocates crafted a plan that comes without a price tag, they’ve managed to alienate a handful of well-intentioned, big-city mayors who were once their allies.

Their destructive handiwork comes in the form of a lengthy constitutional amendment that would guarantee each public school student in the state “the opportunity for a High Quality Public Education.” The provision would create an accountability commission to report on whether the state is spending as much as it should, while another commission would work with the State Board of Education to determine just how much to spend. Lawmakers would have substantially less influence, unless they could muster three-fifths majorities in each house to override the recommendations of the so-called experts.

This is obviously the kind of idea that rings more alarm bells with conservatives than the Chicago Fire. But when even the big-city mayors with the worst (and, not coincidentally, most expensive) school systems are objecting, you know it’s really bad news.

How bad? We’re talking really big, economy-crippling numbers here:

  • State Senator Kevin Coughlin (R-Cuyahoga Falls; HT RAB) — “What the coalition has proposed is nothing more than a massive tax increase on Ohioans,” Coughlin said. “If this plan were in place today, it would require at least a 38% increase in state income tax, or a 43% increase in the state sales tax to just fund schools in FY2007. The actual tax hike needed to fund this plan will be even higher once the coalition finally tells Ohioans just how much they want to spend on schools.”
  • Lone conservative PD columnist Kevin O’Brien: “….. whenever the legislature, the governor or the taxpayers might be tempted to say “no” to some educator-driven excess, the education lobby could say, “Ah, ah, ah! It’s a fundamental right.”

You would think that even tax-and-spend addicts might conclude, after decades of watching spending on primary and secondary ed per pupil go up at roughly twice the rate of inflation, with no measurable improvement in student performance (and by most accounts, a decline), that the same old “money will solve everything” mantra would be getting a little tired. You would be wrong. What’s more, the proposed set-up is a straitjacket that will commit the state to the factory-model school for eternity.

Meanwhile, it is more than a little likely that technological and other developments, if allowed, will lead to the ability to deliver more meaningful, effective, and relevant learning at a fraction of the cost. If that day indeed arrives and other states get in on the improvements first, the constraints imposed by a constitutional amendment such as the one being proposed could cause Ohio to very quickly become an ignorant, expensive, and embarrassing educational backwater.

No way this proposed constitutional amendment (PDF) should make it to the ballot. If you are asked to sign a petition to get it there, just say no.

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