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Kasich, CEO Gordon discuss state budget


Cleveland was the backdrop Wednesday as Gov. John Kasich touted his plans for education spending and policy changes over the next two years.

Kasich also took the opportunity to once again praise CMSD Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon and call The Cleveland Plan reforms a model for the nation.

The governor's proposed two-year budget, labeled the “Blueprint for a New Ohio, would limit a guarantee that districts’ aid will remain intact if enrollment shrinks. The guarantee, once thought to benefit only urban schools, has spread as more school systems lose students.

Kasich proposed providing protection for districts like CMSD, with lower property values and incomes, by linking aid to local financial conditions.

“I believe we should measure the capacity of a school district to help itself,” he told an audience at the Woodland Hills Campus of the E-Prep and Village Prep charter schools. “If you live in a district with high property values and high incomes, you have the capacity to do more to help yourself.”

Figures are far from final, but estimates released Wednesday by the state Office of Budget and Management show CMSD receiving “core aid” of nearly $425 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That would be a 2.4 percent increase.

The number would climb another 2.2 percent, to more than $434 million, the following year. Core aid typically accounts for about 60 percent of CMSD’s general fund, though a large share of the money is passed through to charter schools in the city.

“We are pleased with the initial simulation data,” said John Scanlan, the District’s chief financial officer. “But we recognize that this is just the first step in the budget process and, as has happened in the past, we know the formula will change as it proceeds through the legislative process.”

The Cleveland Plan, a sweeping set of customized reforms written into state law, calls for furnishing the city’s students with the best education possible, regardless of whether a traditional public school or charter is the provider.

“There has been significant progress, I’m pleased to hear and report, in the Cleveland schools,” Kasich said. “It’s not what we want, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. God bless you, Eric.”

Gordon, who appeared with the governor, said he welcomed Kasich’s plan to take local financial circumstances into account when distributing state funding.

He also pointed out other elements of the education budget that he considered positive:

  • An additional investment of $30 million in mentoring through the Community Connectors program.  In the audience was a 17-year-old who is personally mentored by Gordon. The youth said he credits the CEO with routing him away from the streets and persuading him to take his studies more seriously.
  • Spending another $40 million on expanding access to early childhood education. Locally, the PRE4CLE network, launched last year by CMSD and private partners, is trying to make high-quality preschool available to as many 3- and 4-year-olds as possible. President Obama recently singled out the initiative at a White House summit on early-childhood education.
  • Help for districts that want to develop programs in mastery learning, a relatively new concept in U.S. education. CMSD already has several high schools where students stick with courses until they master the content, even if that means spilling over into another academic year.
  • New regulations that would crack down on groups that sponsor poorly performing charter schools. 

CMSD sponsors eight charter schools, most of those affiliated with the Breakthrough Charter Schools group, and partners with seven others. Breakthrough’s Woodland Hills Campus is a former CMSD school.

Evaluators have recommended that the Board of Education approve two more sponsorships, including another Breakthrough startup.