Tuesday, December 8, 2015

You say you want a resolution

A few weeks back, I attended a meeting of the Worthington Area Democratic Club (WADC) where the featured speaker was Dr. Bill Phillis. Dr. Phillis works today to eliminate charter schools in the state of Ohio. As part of his efforts, he convinced a number of Boards of Education throughout the state to pass a resolution invoicing the state for the amount of money the state used for charter school tuition in that district. There have been a number of requests, both at that meeting and through social media, for Worthington to pass a similar resolution.  I wanted to use this blog post to provide some personal philosophy on this.

Worthington has passed several  resolutions in my time on the Board. A few months back, we passed a resolution calling for a line-item veto override of the Governor's veto on TPP reimbursement funding. We also passed a resolution calling for a change for how the state implements charter school funding, essentially calling for the state to fund charter schools directly rather than using the public school district as a middleman. Going back a few years, we passed a resolution in opposition to the Ohio School Boards Association decision to allow questionable investments with defacto public money and we passed a resolution in opposition to HB597, a piece of disastrous legislation that would have crippled our district's ability to deliver a quality education for years to come by repealing Common Core, negating years of hard work on the part of our teachers designing a local curriculum and requiring 3 different sets of standards within a 5 year period.

So what is the difference between these resolutions and the requests for us to pass a resolution invoicing the state for charter school tuition?  For me, the difference is simple. Invoicing the state for charter school tuition is a stunt designed to grab headlines but it is not a serious attempt at changing or influencing public policy. No one believes the state is going to pay those invoices and while I appreciate the point those districts are trying to make, it does not serve to advance their cause.

In my experience, when our Board passes a resolution, it is a serious request for somebody to do something. We use the resolution sparingly, but when we use it, we mean it. I would hate for those efforts to be cheapened by engaging in political theatrics, regardless of how tempting the target may be.

Let me digress for a moment and point out that our resolutions usually pass unanimously despite a Board that includes representation from both major parties. I'm proud that at least in Worthington, education is not a partisan issue. Right is right and wrong is wrong regardless of political affiliation. Given our board's representation across the political spectrum, when we come together on a critical statewide issue, it is generally the right thing to do.

When Worthington passes a resolution, it empowers our administration to use their resources to gather support through the various education groups in the state. It empowers BOE members to testify as to the content of the resolution to legislative committees on behalf of the board, not just as individuals and it alerts our legislative representatives that a given policy position is something our district expects them to act on.

Let me offer one example. When Worthington passed its resolution about TPP reimbursements, a Democrat, Rep. David Leland and a Republican, Rep. Mike Duffey, were both in the room listening to our discussion and they both committed to address the issue with the legislature. A few months later, the legislature did, in fact, pass a revised TPP phaseout schedule resulting in Worthington receiving an additional 7 million dollars over the next 5 years. I don't expect that everything our district asks for via the resolution will be granted, but I do expect that our resolutions will be taken seriously by those in power at the state house. Passing feel-good resolutions such as invoicing the state for charter school tuition would detract from the serious policy discussions that need to take place. There continue to be ongoing discussions about charter school funding in the legislature and my hope is that our district's resolution will articulate our preferred solution in a way that simply sending an invoice does not.

All that said, our entire board does take constituent requests very seriously and I imagine we  will consider resolutions that community groups want us to pass, so don't be shy about asking. The above should be considered Marc's personal philosophy which may or may not be reflective of my colleagues on the Board. Agree or disagree, I wanted to let you know where I stood. Thanks for reading.