Milford fights unfunded mandates

As Ohio’s budget crisis comes to a head, our legislators are looking at unfunded mandates placed upon school districts to see if there are places they can relieve the pressure on school budgets.  The impetus for at least some of this reconsideration is from Milford’s efforts to bring the state of unfunded mandates to our lawmakers’ attention.

At the January board meeting, Gary Knepp presented a resolution against unfunded mandates that was passed by the school board.  At that same meeting, I asked the board and administration for help putting together a list of the various unfunded mandates imposed on school districts.  The resolution was requested by State Representative Joe Uecker; the unfunded mandate list was requested by Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, following a conversation he and I had about the numerous mandates most people don’t even know about.  (Click here for more information about Milford’s role in the fight against unfunded mandates).

Prompted by these two actions, Rep. Uecker visited the Milford School Board last night, speaking about the current state budget.  This past Tuesday, Governor Kasich released the topline of his biennial budget, which includes a recommendation to eliminate the Evidence-Based Model of funding used during the last administration.  We will not have line items for the budget, nor will we know what funding model our state allocation will be based on, for several weeks or more (for more information on Milford’s budget, click here).

Rep. Uecker says the Governor and legislators are looking at unfunded mandates in a variety of ways, hoping to figure out what makes sense to keep and eliminate.  Milford, as a highly successful school district, was used as a model by Mr. Uecker when discussing the All Day Kindergarten mandate that (luckily) has not yet taken full effect.

“You guys are doing it,” he said, referring to preparing students effectively for first grade within a half-day kindergarten setting.  If districts are already preparing children more than sufficiently for success through their school years, is the significant extra cost (potentially $3 million a year in Milford) worth the incremental benefit of adding an extra half-day of kindergarten?

Rep. Uecker confirmed the unfunded mandates list is being used as a starting point for consideration.  There are many mandates that make sense and no school district would want them eliminated; however, others do not make sense given the relatively small benefit they provide but the high burden they place on budgets.

We will continue to work with our legislators to determine what is appropriate and what can be eliminated.  As Rep. Uecker said, “Several of you have me on your speed dials.”

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