By SHELLEY TERRY - firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday was a big day for Patrick Colucci.
The Ashtabula Area City Schools superintendent traveled to Columbus to speak to the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee as part of CORAS, the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools. It’s a group of about 100 educators concerned about aspects of the school funding proposal that could lead to schools losing millions of dollars.
“We are not getting additional money; we are flat funded and from what I understand, that in two years, flat funding (from the state) will be cut even further,” Colucci said.
Colucci said Ashtabula schools are operating in an area with a high rate of poverty (31 percent, compared to the state 14.8 percent), and the district has not received any new operating money in 13 years. He said the district has eliminated 171 positions in the past five years, 73 of which were teaching positions.
Colucci also told legislators despite the past four school levies failing, the school district has improved greatly since 2005. But, he does not believe it is possible to be required to implement many more initiatives from the state without receiving funding for it.
“We are expected to put these mandates in place, yet no money from the state,” he said. “We have a 6.2 mill, five-year emergency operating levy on the May ballot and if it fails, we’ll have to make another $1 million in cuts.”
Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, asked Colucci what kind of savings he has seen through the shared Ashtabula County Educational Service Center.
Colucci said they are seeing more than $14,000 a year in savings. He also partners with the county to provide academic coaches, he said.
Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, asked Colucci what kind of transportation problems he’s tackled after cutting busing in Ashtabula County, an area known for lots of snow.
“I told him we don’t have sidewalks going to either campus and that having students walk on snow banks, trying to avoid cars is very dangerous,” Colucci said. “I told him I will reinstate bussing if the levy passes (in May).”
Colucci said CORAS will continue to call on lawmakers to make changes in the basic aid amount for students, pay for transportation, career technical and special education programs and to pay for new initiatives like the third-grade reading guarantee.
A former educator, Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, said he is “fighting for our schools.”
Mary Zappitelli, superintendent of Geneva Area City Schools, sent Colucci a thank you note Thursday for “going to Columbus and for helping our county to be heard.”