September 2, 2014

Elyria
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Superintendent: Gov. Kasich’s budget shorts educational service centers

Educational service centers are go-to places for local school districts to get help with everything from having potential teachers fingerprinted to learning about how to roll out complicated education mandates.

But in Gov. John Kasich’s school-funding proposal, educational service centers — including the Educational Service Center of Lorain County, which supports all 14 county districts — could see up to 50 percent less funding.

The “Achievement Everywhere” plan was touted as a plan that did not cut education for kindergarten through 12th grade districts, but as service center Superintendent Greg Ring contends, districts will lose in an indirect way.

Ring testified Tuesday before the Ohio House Primary & Secondary Education Subcommittee of the Ohio House of Representatives Finance & Appropriations Committee and spoke about the proposed cuts, emphasizing the effects on the local level.

He told lawmakers that educators were relieved when Kasich told educators and superintendents on Jan. 31 that “none of you are going to receive less money.’’

“You could hear a collective sigh across the room,” Ring said. “But you can imagine my shock when the details of the funding proposal were published, and I found that the governor’s proposal reduces the state subsidy to education service centers by over 50 percent and takes away the local funding support we receive from our districts.”

Ring was among more than 100 educators who gathered at the Statehouse in an attempt to sway lawmakers to address issues in the proposed two-year state budget. Later, in a telephone interview, he said it was important for him to speak with a message from Lorain County because there is so much educational service centers do to benefit districts. He asked lawmakers to restore funding before passing the governor’s budget.

“When you cut ESCs, you are cutting the K-12 world,” he said. “We are positioned to bring districts together, provide common training and streamline the rollout of mandates. Someone has to train the teachers and support mandate rollouts like the Third Grade Guarantee, Common Core Standards and the new teacher and principal evaluations.

“The Ohio Department of Education doesn’t have the resources to support that, and the state turns to ESCs to fill in the gaps.”

Educational service centers are heavily used by smaller county districts like Keystone, which employs their curriculum director through the center. A cut in funding would mean Keystone could see an increased personnel cost of $41,000 to support that position, Ring said.

Elyria Superintendent Paul Rigda said Elyria does not use the center for director or supervisory positions, but it does use some other services like training substitute teachers and distance learning program.

Lori Snyder-Lowe, superintendent of the Morgan Schools in Morgan County and president of the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools, said testimony from educators is important because state lawmakers have an opportunity to improve school funding in Ohio.

She called on lawmakers to make changes in the basic aid amount for students, fully fund transportation, career technical and special education programs and to pay for new initiatives like the third-grade reading guarantee.

Ring said the governor’s plan is also looking to shake up the governing structure of educational service centers, which now just have a five-member board. He worries that a larger board, much like the one used to govern joint vocational districts, are dysfunctional.

If a change has to be made, he instead proposes allowing for only two additional board members.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.