Equipped with a veto pen, an Ohio governor has the authority to clean up after lawmakers, challenge wayward thinking and halt ventures into excess. On Monday, John Kasich struck three items from the mid-biennium budget bill. (Lawmakers can overturn the vetoes with a three-fifths majority, an unlikely prospect.) The governor would have done well to draw a line through at least two additional provisions.
Allowed to remain in the bill, and become law, is language benefiting dropout recovery programs operated by charter schools. They are permitted to offer services to adults older than age 22 to pursue a high school diploma. In theory, that sounds reasonable. The state must mobilize to help more effectively the roughly 1 million Ohio adults without high school diplomas. The trouble is, the charter option appears more about a political reward than addressing the problem.
The governor already has a promising approach to working with dropouts, routing $5,000 per student to community colleges and job-training schools to help them advance. For good reason, he didn’t include charter schools in his initial proposal. The record reveals that dropout recovery programs have performed poorly, as Richard Ross, the state school superintendent, made plain in testimony before lawmakers.
More, the state Senate did not include the charter option in its version of the bill. The Republican majority in the House, led by Speaker William Batchelder, pushed for the provision, the item resurfacing in the conference committee. What explains its presence, if not the merits? The speaker invites the impression of his team doing the bidding of David Brennan, an influential donor to Republicans whose White Hat Management includes in its portfolio the operation of dropout recovery programs.
So a set of charter schools with a lousy record of achievement now has an additional avenue to public money. That hardly meets the test the governor usually sets for public spending.
The governor also insists that he sees a role for renewable energy. “I believe in renewables. I believe in the wind and the solar,” he said this week. Yet he failed to veto a most dismaying provision that dramatically alters the setback requirement for wind turbines, putting at risk the industry’s presence in the state.
The worst thing about this provision is the rush to enactment — late in the process, without public testimony or much discussion. That alone should have triggered a veto. The governor easily could have identified the hurry and argued that the question belongs in front of the study committee soon to examine the future of the energy efficiency and renewable requirements.
Unfortunately, he did not, adding to doubts about the credibility of the study committee, allowing another provision to stand, even as it conflicts with what he claims to support.