The Cleveland school district is in the midst of an ambitious effort to turn around local schools.
Last year, lawmakers in Columbus passed new laws to let the district make sweeping changes.
Then Cleveland voters approved a new levy to give the district another $77 million a year from local taxpayers.
Now lawmakers have offered another form of support: an additional $6 million set aside just for Cleveland in the new state budget.
The $6 million earmark for Cleveland schools in the state budget is intended to be used to support the Cleveland Plan.
That’s the package of laws enacted last year that lets the district do things including change how it hires, fires and pays teachers and share local tax dollars with charter schools.
This earmark gives Cleveland additional money beyond the state funding that all school districts get under the new state budget. Without the money, Cleveland would have been one of about 200 districts statewide slated to see no increase in state funding over the next two years.
The money comes on top of the new local tax levy Cleveland voters approved last year.
This new state money was added to the state budget by the conference committee, after the House and Senate voted on the budget but just days before Gov. John Kasich signed the state spending bill on June 30.
And while there are other school earmarks in the state budget, those earmarks are much smaller than this one.
Other earmarks include:
- $10 million to help poor rural school districts buy new buses;
- $3.5 million to set up a new program to train school principals and place them in high-poverty schools, as an alternative to existing principal training programs;
- $500,000 for groups receiving federal Promise Neighborhood grants; and
- Up to $140,000 for a Toledo after-school program.
Gov. John Kasich has in the past told voters not to support local school levies. But he backed the Cleveland levy last year. And he was in favor of giving Cleveland an “extra” $6 million in state funding this year too.
“We want them to succeed,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said. “If this money is necessary to support the reforms they’ll need, we’ll support that too.”
State Senator Tom Sawyer was a member of the budget conference committee.
He said the additional state funding for Cleveland was justified.
“They’re going through a major and largely experimental transition that hasn’t been tried before,” Sawyers said.
Sawyer said no other district is trying to make such big changes right now.
But on Monday, Gov. Kasich signed legislation called the Columbus Education Plan that would let the Columbus schools make some of the changes as Cleveland. And that could — eventually — put Columbus in the same position as Cleveland.
“Depending on the fate of the Columbus Plan, they may find themselves similarly positioned by the end of the year,” Sawyer said. But “the hope is that Columbus will not be in so deep a hole in attempting to address its problems when they come to a similar juncture later in the year.”