One huge line item was missing Tuesday when Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the new $71.2 billion biennial budget into law: Controversial PARCC exams, which drove complaints this year from parents and educators alike, were cut.
House Bill 64, the state operating budget, dumped funding for the standardized math and language arts tests as Ohio withdrew from the 12-state Common Core consortium.
The compromise bill leaves the Ohio Department of Education scrambling to find a new test provider with about a month and a half to go before the fall semester begins.
“We’ve never focused on the tests, fortunately. We’ve focused on the standards and what teachers need to know to prepare them for the next grade level and the future,” said Amherst director of educational services Michael Molnar.
The PARCC bail-out was no surprise, he said, especially with problems in its roll-out this year and opt-outs by students who objected to the high-stakes exams.
The big question is how the annual state report card will reflect test results and whether there will be any funding impact to our local districts.
Molnar feels any data the state puts forward that is a result of the tests is invalid and useless.
Between opt-outs, preparatory problems, issues with setup, computer glitches, taking the test online for the first time instead of using traditional paper and pencils, and questions among teachers, the PARCC results are unreliable, he said.
He advocates throwing out the test results for the entire state.
There is a strong possibility the state will put a “safe harbor” policy in place for the next three years because there is so much turmoil over testing methods and how to use data from exams.
Yet while PARCC is dead, Molnar said he believes the Common Core standards being taught in classrooms are solid.
The biennial budget also outlines state funding to public schools.
It includes provisions for a $955 million increase in basic aid for kindergarten through 12th grade schools and guarantees no district will fall below its 2015 funding level.
There’s also a line item for an additional $20 million per year for testing, though it doesn’t stipulate what company’s standardized tests will be purchased.
Other provisions of Ohio’s new two-fiscal year budget include:
• A 6.3 percent decrease to personal income tax rates for all Ohioans.
• A continued 75 percent tax cut for small businesses earning less than $250,000 in business income, falling to a 100 percent cut in fiscal year 2017.
• A new three percent flat tax rate for businesses with income above $250,000.
• $286 million to increase home- and community-based services for Ohioans with disabilities.
• New policies focusing on welfare benefits for residents ages 16 to 24.
• Enhanced maternal services through Medicaid health plans with the aim of reducing the infant mortality rate.
• A budget freeze for tuition at two- and four-year state-supported colleges and universities.
“At a time when many other states are struggling with fiscal challenges, Ohio’s new state budget is among the strongest, thanks to conservative budgeting and smart management,” said a release from Kasich’s office. “The result is an economic climate friendly to job creators and a formula for future prosperity that helps more Ohioans participate in our state’s economic revival.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.