On Monday, the Ohio Department of Education announced it had received 570 applications from 420 organizations seeking funds to pursue innovative approaches in education and school operations. The response to the new Straight A Fund, indeed, is impressive. As striking as the number of applications is that the submissions total $868 million. The budget for the program is $250 million for two years, $100 million of it available in the first year. The gap between demand and funding for creative initiatives is another reminder how the Statehouse continues to shortchange educational priorities.
Gov. John Kasich and Richard Ross, the state school superintendent, pushed hard for the competitive program, asking initially for $300 million to seed initiatives that raise student achievement and reduce operating costs. As the response shows, even that sum would have proved a pittance.
The program seeks practices that can be quickly duplicated and are sustainable. In budget testimony, Ross explained that schools must invest some of their own resources and demonstrate long-term commitment “so that when the Straight A Fund is no longer available, these innovations and new practices will be able to continue.”
One would hope the end game for seeding innovation is that the most successful ones, through duplication, could become part of the practice of excellence statewide, sustained by state funding and not confined to districts that can muster the local resources to continue them.