The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 21, 2013

No guarantee in Kasich budget after few years

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —

 An angry response to Gov. John Kasich’s proposed school funding budget netted Conneaut’s school board president a telephone chat with officials in Columbus.

The number-crunchers didn’t share good news, Christopher Newcomb said at Wednesday’s regular meeting. The no-funding cut guarantee given Conneaut and other schools in economically depressed communities could be phased out in a couple years, a move that could cost the district $2.5 million in revenue, he said.

That means Conneaut would have to absorb the cost of some state-mandated programs that are ahead, including stepped-up teacher evaluations and an emphasis on third-grade instruction, Newcomb said.

Newcomb’s sharp rebuke of Kasich’s budget got attention, ultimately earned him and school administrators a conference call with two of the governor’s school funding experts. In his message, Newcomb labeled the budget “smoke and mirrors” designed to move funding from public schools to charter schools, he said.

In other business, the board:

• Heard from Bill Taylor, the father of a 6-year-old student, concerned with the behavior of older students on the school bus his son rides. Taylor offered to serve as a bus monitor in hopes of curbing bad behavior and language his son witnesses, he said.

“It’s a privilege to ride a bus,” Taylor said. “There’s stuff being said and it’s not being whispered.”

• Learned from James Campbell, athletic administrator, that officials with the All-American high school sports conference visited Conneaut to evaluate its facilities, a possible prelude to an invitation to join a revamped conference. A handful of other schools in the region have also been interviewed. No inclusion would happen for a couple of years, however, members were told.

• Said it was “pleasantly surprised” by the condition of a commercial building at Harbor and Jackson streets that could be the future home of the district’s bus garage. The city of Conneaut, which stands to acquire the building through a lien, has invited the district to occupy a portion of the building. Board member Joan Norton said the city and school board may seek a grant to cover the cost of a feasibility study.

• Heard from city resident Nic Church, who gave a brief presentation on Lawrence Kelley, a Conneaut native and college football star who received the second Heisman Trophy. Church said he felt Kelley’s “historic” legacy should be recognized.