Plan upsets Wolf Creek superintendent

WATERFORD – Wolf Creek Local Superintendent Bob Caldwell said Monday he believes Ohio Gov. John Kasich “didn’t follow through” with the school-funding plan he recently outlined for school administrators.

“If I hadn’t gone up on the 31st and heard it with my own ears, I wouldn’t be so livid,” Caldwell told board of education members during their regular meeting in the Waterford High School library.

Caldwell was referring to the Jan. 31 meeting of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators at which Kasich outlined his proposal, dubbed “Achievement Everywhere,” to address the state’s unconstitutional school funding system and even the playing field for students around Ohio.

Caldwell’s optimism over Kasich’s including residents’ incomes and other factors beyond property valuation when determining local wealth was erased when he saw the actual numbers the new proposal allocated to districts. All districts were promised at minimum the same funding they received this year, and Wolf Creek – along with 60 percent of the districts in the state – won’t receive a penny more.

In fact, the formula apparently indicated Wolf Creek should see a 42.3 percent decrease in state aid. But the flat funding promise would be kept thanks to “guarantee” funds the administration has indicated it doesn’t want to rely on forever.

“That’s the part I’m really worried about,” Treasurer Rachel Miller said of one day losing the guarantee money, which would total $871,092 in fiscal year 2014 and $910,871 the next year.

Some districts in wealthier areas received increases, including Olentangy Local in Delaware County, whose more than 300 percent hike was attributed to its rising enrollment.

Caldwell said he didn’t expect a large boost for Wolf Creek, which is below the state average and median income but has a per-student property valuation of more than $200,000 thanks to the presence of AEP’s Muskingum River Power Plant and a free-and-reduced lunch rate below the state average of 43 percent. But he pointed out that districts in much worse financial shape, like East Cleveland City, also would see no increase..

“They’re so far below in every category,” he said, pointing to the district’s nearly 89 percent free and reduced lunch rate, compared to Wolf Creek’s 33 percent.

Caldwell said he’d already conveyed his concerns to state Reps. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, and Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, and Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville.

“I don’t see it going through,” he said of the funding plan. “It’s going to be a long, hard battle.”

In other business, the board unanimously approved making special education teacher Suellen Coleman the local district coordinator in charge of overseeing special education. She will take on the additional duties with no increase in salary.

Caldwell said the move was made because the psychologist who handles those duties for the district through the Ohio Valley Educational Service Center is retiring. He will continue to serve as the district’s psychologist at an hourly rate of pay.