Join the Future, a “public education advocacy” front group run by the Central Ohio Education Association, dishonestly claimed on June 27 that Governor John Kasich’s 2011-2012 state budget was responsible for 93 teacher layoffs in the Lorain City School District. Join the Future frequently attacks Kasich and other Republicans for their failure to meet the Ohio Education Association’s demands, and in this instance did so by ignoring obvious facts.
The post on the union group’s Twitter feed read, “93 teachers laid off In Lorraine [sic]. Thanks to John Kasich and his state budget,” with a link to an Elyria Chronicle-Telegram article regarding the district’s ongoing fiscal woes.
According to reporter Evan Goodenow, Lorain City School District faces a $12 million deficit of which $7.4 million would be eliminated by laying off 182 employees, including 93 teachers. Staffing at the district’s Charleston Administration Center has already been reduced by 22 percent and the building administrative staff workforce has been cut by 8 percent, amounting to $1.1 million in savings since October 2011.
The district plans to ask the Ohio Department of Education for a $4.5 million bailout, and plans to ask voters for a 1 percent increase in the local property tax.
On June 29, Goodenow reported that Lorain City School Treasurer Dale Weber predicts that the school district will become financially insolvent in several months, as it will no longer be able to meet its financial requirements. In April 2013, the school district will be forced to call upon the Office of the Auditor of State to step in and take over the school district’s finances, as it was forced to do for several other school districts earlier this year. Webb predicts that even if voters approve the tax hike, it will not be enough to prevent the fiscal emergency.
Despite the attempt by Join to Future to lay blame at Governor Kasich’s feet, data from the Ohio Department of Education shows that under Kasich’s budget, Lorain City Schools wiill actually receive more state funding than they did under former Democratic governor Ted Strickland.
In fiscal year 2011 — the last fiscal year in which a Strickland budget was in effect — the district received $59,266,755 in state funds. Under Kasich’s enacted budget, “unrestricted grants-in-aid” for fiscal year 2012 will increase by over $3 million, and then increase again by an additional $1.6 million in fiscal year 2013.
A Media Trackers analysis reveals the that from 2009 – 2011, the district increased spending on teachers’ retirement and insurance benefits by 20.3 percent. During those years, the district received over $11 million in one-time federal “stimulus” funds — which have now been depleted. The one-time funding which apparently prompted the school to spend beyond its means came from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, part of President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
During 2009 and 2010, Lorain City Schools revenue from taxes on local businesses decreased by 60.2%, while the district’s spending increased by 7.8% — over three times the rate of inflation for that time period.
Ohio’s tangible personal property tax is a tax on equipment and supplies owned by businesses, and is in the process of being replaced by the more general Commercial Activities Tax.
When questioned on this discrepancy between the public record and Join the Future’s attempt to blame Kasich, the Central Ohio Education Association employee in charge of the union group’s Twitter account responded, “take a look at that second line. Tangible personal property tax. The Gov diverted that monies [sic] from schools to state coffers,” claiming “a reporter on education would have grasped” how Kasich was responsible for the district’s problems “immediately.”
In fiscal year 2010, the state operated under the budget signed into law by Strickland. Governor Kasich’s fiscal year 2012-2013 budget was signed into law in March 2011. A sharp downturn in the Lorain City School District’s tangible personal property tax revenue between 2009 and 2010 — combined with increased spending on benefits from 2009-2011 — put the district behind the proverbial eight-ball before Kasich even took office.
The facts are unkind to the union narrative, but the district’s use of one-time funds for employee perks, while property values in the district plummeted can hardly be blamed on John Kasich.