Evidence-Based Model and Solving Problems with School Funding

The epic with the Ohio school funding system has been lasting about 20 years. At first, to make the Ohio school funding system constitutional, the cost-based model was offered: it implied calculating an average per-pupil amount and providing schools with corresponding funding (Endicott). Thus, funding was supposed to be equal to spending. After the Court decided that the funding system remained unconstitutional, Governor Ted Strickland offered a new, evidence-based model. It provided a new approach to school funding, which is actively criticized nowadays, though.

Twenty years is quite a long period when one is able to get used to anything. We could accept the situation and be idle if only its potential consequences were not so destructive. Politicians can ignore, discuss or argue about the school funding system within 20 years time, but a child cannot wait for so long: he/she needs this time to turn into an educated and successful person, citizen and professional. Until we have not faced the terrible reality when the high quality of education in Columbus becomes an unachievable miracle, the resolute and effective measures should be taken. The evidence-based scheme of school funding in Ohio offered by Strickland is a successful strategy of improving the current situation; it should be supported and developed on the tactical level.

Alan Endicott, the Columbus public education examiner, discusses the issue from an interesting and reasonable perspective. When in 1991 the question about recognizing the Ohio school funding system “unconstitutional” arouse, and then in 1997 when the Ohio Supreme Court agreed that the system did not meet the necessary requirements to be called constitutional, the discussion was based on three terms: “thorough”, “effective” and “adequate” (Endicott). Together these three terms one was to define what the school funding system should be like. This arouses a very important question that will help us understand what should be done with school funding: what does each of these terms mean concerning the school funding system?

Defining “thorough” and “effective” is quite simple; moreover, it has been already done at the local level. Particularly, in Ohio, there are the academic content standards: it outlines what knowledge and skills students should have and thus defines what proper education is. Besides, there are the achievement tests that are aimed at monitoring students’ performance, which helps to measure the effectiveness of education (Endicott). The key problem is to deal with the word “adequate”: this notion remains absolutely subjective, which means there is a chance that even in case the conditions of “thoroughness” and “effectiveness” are kept to, the Court will recognize the system “inadequate” again and again.

The evidence-based model offered by Strickland is the way to deal with this vague issue of “adequacy”. The formula includes several groups of components: “additional services support”, “gifted education support”, “enrichment support”, “technology resources support”, “other support”. Some components are not funded or funded partially in 2010-2011 (McDonald). Thus, the model provides a many-sided approach to estimating schools funding needs.

There are certain counterarguments about Strickland’s model which mostly concern lack of money. Particularly, to improve the situation, two stages should be completed: the first stage implies developing a new, effective approach to school funding that will meet schools’ requirements; the second stage is to find enough money to make the developed scheme work. It is clear that in case one of these two stages is not fulfilled, the second one will not work as well.

At the moment, the financial aspect of applying the evidence-based model remains the burning issue (Siegel). The calculations show that to solve this contradiction, about 10 years are needed: considering the current conditions, the complete funding will be reached approximately in 2019. This contradiction is presented as crucial and impossible to solve. However, instead of rejecting the model and leaving everything as it is, why not to try to solve the appearing challenges and make the system work?

Particularly, the efforts should be focused on successful and effective implementation of the model between 2010 and 2019. It is necessary to take into account that “today, there is less money for schools in the (general revenue fund) than in the previous formula”, as Rob Nichols, spokesman for Republican John Kasich says (Siegel). It is not ruled out that the details of the model should be adapted to the current reality. We hear arguments about numbers, for example: increasing teachers’ salary from X to Y will create the shortage of Z (Siegel), which is a reasonable remark, but hardly the reason to reject the model. The numbers may be revised, but we should pay attention to the following: the model assures a very valuable issue, which is a strategy of school funding. A strategy that gives opportunity to make (at last) the situation with our education “adequate”. Now, the task is to develop the tactics.

There is no wonder that Strickland’s model has been met with criticism: it is an essential reaction to any new suggestion offered to any community. When a solution is offered, there are always those who find negative aspects in it, and this is a positive tendency: finding disadvantages contributes to improvement. The matter is that in many cases, it is impossible to find an ideal solution to cope with the problem. Thus, it is much more effective to focus on an optimal solution rather than an ideal one. Strickland’s approach is such an optimal solution for the situation in Columbus: it creates certain challenges; however, we should consider them not the reasons to quit implementing the model and continue sitting by, but the tasks that we should cope with.

Another counterargument that opponents emphasize is that the model is not the panacea. For example, the author of an article posted on July 21, 2010 argues that the model does not work, as it does not solve existing problems: a school building constructed in 1921 has not been destroyed and rebuilt, though the necessity has been discussed yet in 1996 (O’Leary). The title of the article states that the model “has not changed reality”. It is not clear how and why the model is expected to provide opportunity to rebuild school building in such a short term, not to mention that the year of a building’s construction itself is not an indicator of the necessity to rebuild it.

Implementing the new model is quite expensive and requires working on it, and this is what can be heard the most often from its opponents. Money is the matter that arises any time when an innovation is offered. The situation with the Ohio school funding is similar to a position of an imaginary individual who prefers to live in a card box because buying a house requires investing much money at once and putting some effort. We need to think long-run to define where we go and to develop short-run plans to approach the target. Let’s not make our children wait for another 20 years.

Works Cited

McDonald, Carey. “Components of Ohio’s evidence-based model of school funding.” Ohio School Funding Advisory Council. 2010. Web.

Endicott, Alan. “School funding: Rethinking “Thorough and Efficient””. Examiner. 2010. Web.

O’Leary, Jamie D. “Ohio’s school funding “Fix” hasn’t changed reality for some communities.” Flypaper. 2010. Web.

Siegel, Jim. “Strickland’s schools fix lacks funds”. The Columbus Dispatch. 2010. Web.

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