Schools across Ohio are being asked to come up with ideas to cut costs and help children learn. And they'll get paid for it.
The state's new Straight A Fund has $250 million earmarked for grants for new technology and other projects aimed at improving student achievement, reducing costs and directing more state funding into classrooms. A governing board, which met for the first time last week, will decide who gets the grant money over the next two years.
The Straight A Fund is a brainchild of Gov. John Kasich, who says it could "lead to the greatest amount of innovation and change in our Ohio public schools."
"This is not your typical grant program to pass out money and make people happy in the short term," Kasich said at the fund's inaugural meeting, "We are calling for institutional, fundamental change that can help us to have a better economy within our schools while at the same time advancing fundamental, basic education for our students."
We can't fault the governor for "thinking outside the box" and pushing for educational reform. Unlike some of his predecessors who donned the mantle of "education governor," he seems to have come up with ideas that are worth trying. And, as far as the Straight A Fund is concerned, he's come up with money -- plenty of it -- to implement the program.
At the same time, however, we can't help but wonder how that money might be better spent. If the state has a quarter of a billion dollars to underwrite "innovation" and educational experimentation, why must school districts continue to scramble for funding for basic operations? Why do school superintendents -- most of whom, we imagine, would welcome the opportunity to "innovate" -- find themselves devoting much of their time and energy to number-crunching and fund-raising as levy after levy finds its way to the ballot? Wouldn't better-funded schools give taxpayers a break? And, or course, wouldn't Ohio's young people benefit greatly if their schools had the money to provide the education they deserve rather than cutting academic offerings to state minimums?
We hope the Straight A Fund comes up with some great ideas to improve education in Ohio, ideas that will, in fact, save money and encourage schools to provide young people with the learning they need to deal with a competitive future.
We also hope that the legislators who found a way to shovel a quarter of a billion dollars into this fund will find a way to get serious about truly reforming how we fund our schools so that districts have the money they need without having to continue to go to the ballot box to get it.
It's been more than a decade since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled -- repeatedly -- that relying on property taxes to support education is unconstitutional. Coming up with an alternative is long past due.
It's time for a Straight A brainstorm that will ease the burden on schools and homeowners.
And it shouldn't take a quarter of a billion dollars to find it.