To the Editor: Unfunded mandates, less state $$, hurt BG schools
Written by Steve Cernkovich   
Friday, 03 May 2013 08:57
To the Editor:
Many citizens are unaware that numerous “unfunded mandates” from the state and federal governments require Ohio Schools to implement new programs, but don’t provide them with the funds to do so.  Without government funding, school districts have no choice but to somehow “find” money in their ever-shrinking existing budgets to support these new programs.
Examples of some recent unfunded mandates include the Jon Peterson Scholarship, the Autism Scholarship, the Core Curriculum requirements, and the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES).  The Jon Peterson Scholarship requires local school districts to pay the full cost of tuition, up to a maximum of $20,000 per student per year, to any non-public school of the parents’ choosing.  Prior to this mandate, BG City Schools provided services to these children at a substantially lower cost. The Autism Scholarship likewise requires payment to any provider of service, public or non-public, and mandates that the local school district pay up to $20,000 per student per year for services for children with symptoms of autism.
The BG City Schools and School Board believe strongly that children with special needs have a right to any and all services they need, and that it is our responsibility to make certain they receive these services.  But we also believe that the state and federal governments should allocate the funding necessary for these programs. Currently, less than 25% of the required maximum funding for these programs comes from the state government.  As a result, most of the costs of these programs must be paid for with local tax dollars.
Two additional unfunded mandates are the Common Core Curriculum and the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES).  Both of these programs will eventually strengthen our schools, but once again, because funds have not been provided for them, the time and costs of implementation must be taken from existing resources.
In short, BG schools are being required to do more and more with less and less funding.  In addition to the added costs of unfunded mandates, the State of Ohio has cut general funding to BG City Schools by $1.1 million since 2009.  This dramatic reduction in state funding, along with a steady stream of new unfunded mandates, means that it is no longer possible to maintain current levels of school excellence without seeking additional funding.  I hope you will join me in supporting the school levy on the May 7 ballot.

Steve Cernkovich
Member, BG Board of Education

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