Memo to Kasich: Clarify plan for schools

more details needed; address them in state of the state speech

Published:

Gov. John Kasich's travel-

ing road show -- otherwise known as the State of the State -- will take him to Lima this week, where he will outline his vision for the Buckeye State in what could be an unofficial kick-off speech for his re-election bid.

The State of the State, with Kasich delivering it, is part stump speech, part political rally and a great deal of the governor at his ad hoc finest: there are shout-outs to friends in the audience, joking asides that aren't found in his advance text -- such as the reference to his "hot wife" -- and digressions that are, if nothing else, entertaining.

Those elements at times threaten to overshadow the substance of his remarks. Kasich, for all his jocularity, is a governor who takes his job seriously, priding himself on being a "transformational" leader unafraid of challenging the status quo to deliver on his pledge to revitalize Ohio economically without hiking individual taxes.

It's almost a sure bet Tuesday's State of the State will include a recap of the governor's proposed budget plan, which includes a 20 percent cut in the state income tax, a boost in taxes on the oil and gas industry, a variety of new service taxes and other elements that Kasich contends will create a more favorable tax environment for economic development. Kasich may address criticisms of the plan from those who question his claim that it will provide overall tax relief.

We also hope the governor sheds light on his plan for school funding, clarifying the confusion stemming from apparent inconsistencies in the "Achievement Everywhere" program he unveiled on Jan. 31.

The governor's statement, "If you are poor, you're going to get more; if you're richer, you're going to get less," seems at odds with the funding figures released a few days later, which showed many school districts ­ -- including all but four in Portage County -- receiving no increase in state funding in the coming year, while others that are perceived as wealthy are in line for funding increases. That has school officials and taxpayers alike scratching their heads.

Aides to Kasich have said that the funding proposals do not reflect equity but, in the words of Richard Ross, his lead education adviser, "reality" in terms of enrollment growth for individual districts. The decline in suburban property values, coupled with an increase in rural property values driven by development, also is a factor that they say must be taken into consideration. That rationale also challenges conventional wisdom.

Kasich has said that his plan for the schools is "constitutionally sound," yet it still appears to rely heavily on local property taxes. That element of the funding formula was found to be unconstitutional more than a decade ago by the Ohio Supreme Court, which said it created a built-in disparity in school funding.

The governor's "out of the box" approach to leading Ohio out of dire economic straits has been commendable in many ways. His budget proposal and his plan for school funding reflect a similar approach to government. The State of the State would be an appropriate venue for filling in some of the details.

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