Unfunded mandates under consideration

UPDATE 3/18/11: Click here for the latest on Milford’s fight against unfunded mandates

School districts are plagued by “unfunded mandates,” requirements the state puts in place but for which it does not provide any funding.  Some recent examples are all-day kindergarten and measuring body mass index (both of which are currently on waivers); others range from specific restrictions on how various types of districts conduct their business (local vs. city vs. exempted village) to mandatory annual step increases.

It is hard enough to carry out these requirements in good economic times.  Now, for the first time, school revenues are actually decreasing – but the mandates continue.  If we are going to be able to provide for our students in the most effective way possible, we must have more control over our local budgets.

Both Gary Knepp and I have been talking to our representatives about these and other mandates.  Mr. Knepp has had numerous conversations with State Representative Joe Uecker; I spoke with Tom Niehaus, our Senator and current President of the Ohio Senate.

Representative Uecker asked the district to pass a resolution asking for relief from unfunded requirements.  Senator Niehaus asked for the district to develop a list so he and other legislators can understand exactly what’s happening at the local level.

This makes a lot of sense – various mandates are added over the years, and they often become a “standard” part of everyday operations.  As legislators come and go, some mandates are not even known – in fact, there were some our district was not aware of until recently!

Change is already in the works.  House bill 30, sponsored by Randy Gardner, addresses removing the all-day kindergarten requirement and changing reporting requirements around the school funding model.  Senator Bill Seitz is also supportive of looking at unfunded mandates.

The resolution Mr. Knepp presented at tonight’s board meeting passed unanimously.  Now, we need to take the next step.  I have asked that our administrators not only come up with a list of all the mandates we can identify, but that we also get other districts involved.  It’s only by cooperating and supporting each other that we can identify as many mandates as possible, and also make enough “noise” about the burden they place upon us to get things changed.

This is the time.  Senator Niehaus has specifically asked for a list.  Other legislators are also looking to support change.  We need to stand up and make known what the state has imposed upon us after years and years of mandates.  With cooperation from multiple districts, perhaps our voices will finally be loud enough to be heard.

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2 Responses to “Unfunded mandates under consideration”

  1. Cathy Barney Says:

    That the state legislature has no idea what mandates it has placed on local school districts is absurd. So, why are we blindly following them? Glad to see, at least, there’s discussion. I appreciate the update, Andrea.

  2. andreabrady Says:

    It is absurd, Cathy – what’s even crazier is that I believe many school districts blindly do things b/c they were mandated long ago and no one questions them any more. Or perhaps the question never came up about doing something a different way – but when it does, we find out we can’t.

    I see how things can get lost – legislators turn over, things are buried, there is no way they can know what’s in all the little pieces of the law. That’s why we have to spend the time to figure out what truly is a mandate and make a list – if districts don’t do it, no one else will!

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