We will pass this levy in November, but only if we work together to continue our effort to change attitudes and teach others the facts. While we lost by 70 votes, we had a massive swing in support of nearly 572 votes with roughly the same voter turnout. We made a strong positive impact and need to continue those efforts for November’s election.
People want to know how they can help and there has been no shortage of ideas of what we should be doing. Many of those ideas will require resources this Fall, but here are some summer thoughts you can take with you and put to use this Summer.
In short, we need to keep the conversation alive. We also need people to understand the critical urgency our district is facing. When you’re at youth sporting events, golfing with friends, picnics, fire pit gatherings, it’s important to talk about Woodridge. Remind people, about the great things that happen in this district. Without being overbearing, reiterate how much you value the relationships your kids have with others in the district. Recall how incredible our various programs involving academics, arts, athletics, music, and community involvement are.
We’re all pretty busy and consumed with our own family activities and I suspect most people don’t know or forget just how successful Woodridge is, so here’s a little run down you’re welcome to share. These are just a taste of what is at risk if we do not rally together.
Arts – While there isn’t as much competition, there is plenty to celebrate.
Academics – as school is finishing up I don’t have enough current data but…
This is extraordinary and something I feel our community doesn’t fully appreciate, yet it’s one of the many reasons we love this district. Society seems to cast negativity at young adults, yet Woodridge continues to help produce caring, giving, intelligent, creative, successful young people. These are the things our community ought to be asking “how can we help get more of this?” as opposed to “taxes are too high.” There is a cost to building great societies and Woodridge is producing a great product.
When I think about all of the success I also think about the amount of diversity in our district and yet how chill it is. Often as we look at the greater world around us we see conflict when we see various cultures and people mixing, but here, we see kids being kids, bonding with one another while achieving all of those amazing accomplishments noted above. When’s the last time you heard of any sort of major fight or absurd drama within our schools – as in with the kids, not us parents? The only recollection that really stands out to me this year was a war over parking spaces between the senior class and underclassmen, it actually seemed pretty comical. The tweets were… as the kids say, lit.
There are amazing families in this community raising amazing kids who are in turn amazing to each other. Perfect? No, but always striving to get it right and do great things. It’s why you’ll often hear people talk about how much they love Woodridge.
But here’s the concern I have, and it’s the heart of what needs to be understood within our community. It’s two words: Apathy and Opportunity.
Apathy is what got me started in all of this. I felt the reason why we struggled to pass levies back in 2011 and 2012 was because our community was rather apathetic to the efforts. We loved Woodridge, we loved the opportunities it afforded our kids, but we were pretty bogged down with day-to-day life, work, and parenting, that few of us actively expressed that love with any effort. We assumed the problems would just be solved by someone else. The fact is, we only win these levies when our parents rally and drive the support that’s needed. It’s typically why it takes 3 tries to get a levy passed. It takes that long to stir enough concern of what’s at stake to move us out of our apathetic state just to go fill in a little black circle, and of course absorb the added cost. I hope we’ve reached that critical point by this November. I hope even more that there is an increased awareness of this apathy and it motivates more of us to change.
The data isn’t posted yet but I do plan to gather a list of people that didn’t vote. The aim is not to shame anyone but rather to understand and reach out personally, or find someone that personally knows them. Every election I hear stories of “such and such forgot to vote.” I also hear people state how they feel their vote doesn’t matter. I want to find 71 voters that skipped the election this past May to show them just how much their vote matters in November. This includes our recent graduates, especially those with siblings still here. There are likely 600 recent graduates that might still be registered to vote here, if you know them, you can help with the absentee ballot process.
Opportunity. I already summarized the amazing things that happen in our district, and in most cases these are year over year events and not one-offs. These opportunities exist because of the amazing organizations, coaches, and staff, that offer up incredible support with somewhat minimal resources. Without them, OUR students, and OUR school district would not be what it is today. These organizations need your help and / or your financial support to continue offering the desired opportunities. How involved are you?
It is the opportunities afforded to our students by Woodridge that draws us to this community. It’s why my family is here and the people we call friends are here. When looking to buy the home we’d raise our family in we were told… “go look at Woodridge.” While there are ample private schools around us, and I have theories as to why people choose them, I’m confident they’re missing an incredible opportunity for their kids – and the least of which is a significant financial savings.
Equally, and in case you weren’t aware, 41% of our district receives some sort of food assistance. For those students, Woodridge is a significant opportunity and they are a vital part of our community. Woodridge is real world. Our graduation rates speak volumes. In fact it’s the core reason I am so committed to this effort. I believe public education is the key to a greater society. When we support our local schools we support these efforts for the greater good.
So now that we have a fresh new understanding of why we think of “love” when we think of Woodridge, let’s talk about this levy. It is true we want to head into the Summer months with some talking points, and this Fall we plan to go big. While you’re keeping the conversation alive this Summer, here are some very strategic points we need to focus on:
Private school advocates – Many of our private school parents are on our side, but there are some that are not. We need to connect with those advocates, if you are friends with private school families that see value in Woodridge, we would like to connect with them and expand that group. We need their voice.
Our wealthiest neighborhoods – there is no denying the fact that based on precinct results, we have the least amount support from them. We need to find allies in those neighborhoods and then we need to find a way to engage the residents and increase support for our efforts.
We need to connect with any established groups, book clubs, adult leagues card clubs, senior citizen gatherings – if you or your local family members know of these groups or have connections with them, we would like to share the Woodridge story with them to encourage their support.
Business owners – We need your vocal support. Host our signs, write a letter, tell the public that local education matters to you. Any business that wants great people joining their team… well, Woodridge kids understand what it means to be a successful teammate and their ongoing growth needs your support. Plus you’re going to eventually need them as future employees. Help advocate for them now.
Homeowners – Evidence shows time and again that property values suffer, sometimes as much as 19%, when schools are not supported by their community. This makes a large portion of our voters stakeholders in this effort. They may feel they are insulated but the reality is, when homes fail to sell, values drop, ALL property in the community suffers. Those concerned about an increase in their taxes ought to run the numbers on what a 19% drop in value would cost. Ask them this question.
Ultimately, a community responds not just to a few voices, certainly not mine, but many voices sharing a common message. Mindsets shift when many are speaking about the value of Woodridge, that’s what we need to achieve this summer, through Fall and right up to election day. We can’t do it alone. The sooner more of us understand the urgency we face the sooner we can ensure our district gets the support it needs.
We also need to be more proactive at shutting down the negative attacks against our district. I am often dumbfounded by the falsehoods shared around our community. Equally concerning, however, are the number of people who love this district, want to see the levy pass, but fail to recognize many of their own incredibly public questions or statements, again many of which are factless, actually cause great harm to our efforts. When we claim to play devil’s advocate under the guise of ensuring our district is being run properly, we immediately give any independent voter reason to doubt their need to support Woodridge, while simultaneously emboldening any hardcore no voter. We have to stop self sabotaging our own efforts.
This is not to say our district is perfect and we all ought to wear the rosy red glasses. What I am saying is that issues you have with the district ought to be taken up with the right channels, it is the only way problems actually get resolved. If you see people venting publicly and you know there is more to the story than they recognize, politely point this out to those individuals and suggest they seek their answers directly with school board, administration, or they can talk to me as a last resort.
And this of course brings me to Social media. As much as people want to blame social media for being a key source of the problems we face today, I honestly believe it’s the actual users. Social media is simply a tool, the manner in which we use it, the manner in which we teach our kids how to use it, that’s really on us as to whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. In terms of helping our levy efforts, we need to be using social media to promote a positive image of the district. If you’re not following and sharing (sharing is better than a like), the stories posted by our different school related social media accounts, that’s just free marketing material we’re not utilizing. The levy committee is on Facebook and Twitter as WoodridgeSOS along with nearly every sports team, our arts programs, the individual buildings, libraries, etc. They tell the story of the wonderful daily achievements of our students. Spread that positive word.
Equally important with social media is limiting our criticisms. Again, we have that right, but we ought to think more before we tweet and ensure we have our facts straight. When people question the management of our district I find the real source of angst is a personal issue against the individual, not a true reflection of successful management. They will criticize the financial management and our need for more money while ignoring the fact that we stretched 5 years worth of funding to 8, and then in 2012 we stretched 5 years to 7. During this time the district faced the reduction of the Tangible Personal Property Tax (25% of our budget) as well as a shift in funds from Woodridge to charter schools (hundreds of thousands of dollars). I do not know how anyone can factually state that Woodridge is mismanaged. Worth noting we’ve consistently received annual awards as part of our required State audits.
Our school board is often criticized. This too leaves a negative connotation and is also often driven by personal viewpoints. Anyone can have these views but they have to understand what happens when they take them public. Like the students in our district, our school board gets along, and has very little drama. These fine people sacrifice an amazing amount of time to ensure they govern our district while abiding by the State laws and creating every possible opportunity for the students they serve. They aren’t perfect, but they will listen and their goal is to serve. Do keep in mind their level of expertise and knowledge when addressing issues, they’ve read the laws, been to Columbus and if you can’t claim the same, treat them with the respect their experience deserves.
If you hear people complaining about the district, our administration, the school board, our teachers or staff, ask them to skip the social media post and public outcries and come to a school board meeting. Encourage them to have a personal conversation with these fine people. I have needed help from this district and I’ve found great support when I use a respectful give-give approach, and I am not alone in that regard.
Finally, as we approach the coming school year there will be plans in place to plug people in and make great things happen as we push to pass this levy. You can commit to being a part of those various events by contacting us here. We are open to other ideas as well but do know that some of those involved have been working on levies for decades and we’ve consulted various experts across the state. More ideas won’t help us if the resources to implement don’t also follow. If we can get the people, we will certainly organize voter registration events, phone banks, promotional videos/storytelling, and since people won’t come to our information meetings, we plan to take these meetings to every neighborhood. We’ll need your help.
As school approaches, keep an eye out for more details on our efforts – again, follow us on social media for updates. For now, let’s focus on celebrating the greatness of Woodridge, impressing upon our community that critical urgency we face in preserving that greatness, and let’s carry these efforts throughout summer with family, friends, and neighbors as we begin to shift attitudes and drum up the last bit of support we are going to need.
Thank you for reading this and have a great summer. Rest and relax because we have work to do this Fall and like our kids, we will be successful.
The following article was posted by Greg from Pluderbund.com. It is by far one of the most straight forward explanations of Ohio school funding. Since getting involved in this process some 7 years ago, much time has spent trying to understand why Woodridge Local Schools is so poorly funded by the State of Ohio. For those attempting to understand Greg’s article will go a long way towards clarity.
With assistance from our treasurer, Tom Morehouse, I took the liberty of using Greg’s framework to shed light on the State of Ohio’s funding model as it pertains to Woodridge. Here’s the revised article. Also, because most of our voters find it rather shocking, I have also included numbers for Hudson for comparison.
Finally, when the District and Levy Committee promote the financial situation at Woodridge and speak about the funding we get from the State of Ohio we have used a per pupil rate of $871 for 2018 (last year that rate was around $743). This document focuses purely on the Basic Aid numbers only from the State. Our mission has always been about transparency and as such we not only included Basic Aid, but also supplemental funding for items such as Special Education, Gifted Education, Career Tech Education, etc. However, the backbone for school funding is the Opportunity Grant, or Basic Aid. The numbers used below are accurate in terms of what we lose to charters and how the State determines that Basic Aid.
Ohio’s Public School Funding Model – Simplified with Woodridge and Hudson Comparison as Example
Adapted from Greg at Plunderbund.com by Scott Karlo with information provided by District Treasurer, Tom Morehouse
April 24, 2018
Ohio’s public school funding model is needlessly complex. So much so, in fact, that it can be extremely difficult to believe when trying to explain its oddities to friends and family. I’m often met with responses such as “that can’t be true”. With the recent lawsuits and closing of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), I decided to go on a bit of a quest to break down the model in the simplest terms possible, using ECOT and its relationship with the Woodridge Local School District as an example.
To be fair, breaking it down to the “simplest” terms isn’t as easy as one might think. To start, I must define two key terms from the Ohio Revised Code (i.e., state law) that significantly impact the way schools are funded.
The two main terms that needs to be explained are the “State Share Index” (SSI) and “Opportunity Grant”.
From the Ohio Department of Education: “State Share Index of each school district reflects the wealth of the school district as measured by property valuation and the income of the residents of the district calculated for the purposes of the distribution of the state funds through the foundation formula. The state share index is calculated based on a sliding scale that ranges from 5% to 90% with the wealthiest districts having an index of 5% and the least wealthy districts having an index of 90%. The state share index is meant to equalize the distribution of the funds among school districts.” The State Share Index is calculated for a school district using the following metrics:
In layman’s terms, the state calculates the school district’s collective tax value and residential income to determine how much money the local taxpayers are expected to contribute to the district. In other words, the state has an explicit expectation that local districts will be funded by school levies.
The “Opportunity Grant” is simply the term used to describe the base funding amount per pupil as decided by the Ohio General Assembly (State Representatives and State Senators) and the Governor. For 2017-18, the base funding amount is $6,010 per pupil. I’ll refer to it as base funding going forward.
Also of note, since the SSI tops out at 90 percent, no district will actually get the full amount of “base funding”.
Brief wrap up: Each student in Ohio starts with a “value” of $6,010 in state tax dollars, then that amount is reduced based on the school district’s State Share Index so that the district ends up receiving only a percentage of the $6,010 in state tax funds.
The Woodridge Local School District sits in beautiful Peninsula, Ohio and, according to the district Treasurer, has 1800 students within the district (1872 as of April 3, 2018, to be exact). The State Share Index for the district has been calculated as 0.1791931530, or 17.91931530% (to be exact).
Hudson has 4,446 Students as of April 3, 2018. Their State Share Index is .2375909760 or 23.75909760%.
So, as a result Woodridge’s State Share Index, instead of receiving the full $6,010 per student from the state, the school district receives only 17.9% of that — $1076.95. Meanwhile, Hudson receives 23.75% or $1,427.82.
Overall, that figure has a huge impact on the district’s starting finances:
Right out of the gate, Woodridge taxpayers are expected to make up more than $9.2 million per year in school funding based on Ohio’s funding model while Hudson residents are expected to make up more than $20 million.
The state also provides additional funding for students in six different special education categories, for students based on English proficiency (LEP), and for students in Career Technical education (in order to meet the additional services these students need). These amounts vary (see the chart below), but the additional amounts are all subject to a reduction based on the State Share Index, so Woodridge suffers another reduction in state funding:
In comparison, Hudson’s reduction is:
I need to clarify that there are additional funds in varying amounts that districts receive for transportation, preschool, gifted, K-3 literacy, etc., to name a few, and those vary widely among schools and districts across the state. In the interest of trying to keep this simple, I want to only focus on the base funding of students as that is consistent across Ohio (with the exception of each district’s unique State Share Index). As noted for Woodridge, the current amount is $871, Hudson is $2,407. This per pupil value was $743 in 2017, compared to Hudson receiving $2,361.
Finally, there is one additional key factor that affects the base funding amount that is more complex and it’s called the “Funding Cap”. The calculations for this are much more difficult to explain in layman’s terms, so I’ll provide some reading material about it at the end of the article. For Woodridge, the 2018 “Funding Cap Ratio” is precisely 0.245707816169 (24.57%). This means that as we go back up to that base funding amount for Woodridge we had in the chart above of approximately $2 million, the law caps that amount based on the aforementioned Cap Ratio. Now Woodridge’s funding chart looks like this:
To summarize so far:
Here’s where the “hard part” comes in explaining this all to friends and family (seriously, that might have been the easy part). Charter schools and “scholarships” or “vouchers” are not subject to any of these caps or reductions. And that’s where the ECOT story comes in.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know by now that ECOT was ordered to repay millions of dollars to the state and subsequently closed mid-year. At the center of that story is the story of school funding. Now, I’m not going to say another word about ECOT’s troubles – I have chosen to use ECOT’s funding in this example for two main reasons: First, [in regards to the original article posted by Greg at Plunderbund] it was conversations about ECOT that started me on this quest, and second, ECOT enrolled more students from Columbus City than any other school district (and conversely, Columbus had more students enrolled in ECOT than in any other charter school). Woodridge has a smaller amount of charter students, but the impact is still significant.
Charter schools receive their funding through their students’ home school district in a pass-through manner. What that means is that the money is all sent to Woodridge, and then the charter school receives its funding directly out of the Woodridge Local Schools budget. So while Woodridge is receiving $264.62 per pupil, the district pays a charter school at least $6,010 for each student who leaves to enroll in a charter school (such as ECOT; not including the categories receiving additional funding). This means that Woodridge actually loses $5,745.38 in funding for each student who enrolls in a charter school. In this situation Hudson is negligible due to fewer students going to ECOT.
Here’s a simple chart showing how that funding looks with the base amounts in increments of ten:
For every student who leaves Woodridge and goes to a charter school, the school district directly incurs a net loss in state funding. You can see that after only 10 students leave Woodridge, the district is having to pay out more money than it originally received in state funding for those exact same students.
As of the Ohio Department of Education’s latest funding report, ECOT had 12 students enrolled out of the Woodridge Local Schools. Using only the base funding amount, the Woodridge Local School District was outright losing over $68,000 per year to this single charter school in state tax dollars. This is money taken directly out of the district’s total budget:
What this means is that even if every single student from ECOT returned to the Woodridge Local School District, while the state was paying ECOT over $71,000 in state tax dollars, Woodridge would receive about $3,150.
As of January, the Ohio Department of Education reported that Woodridge lost 40 students overall to charter schools. Here’s how that directly impacts the public school district’s budget:
That’s a net loss of state funding of more than $233,000 annually taken straight out of the Woodridge Local Schools’ budget.
Look at it another way:
Before I sum this up and get a little more detailed and show how the additionally funded categories and vouchers have an even greater impact on the public school district’s budget, I have a little bonus fact that I stumbled upon while digging through the numbers.
The State Share Index actually exists for all public school districts as a whole. Remember – the state budget “starts out” by setting the per pupil funding amount at $6,010 before the SSI reduces the actual payout.
And the SSI for Ohio’s entire state school funding system? – 50.1%
The base funding amount would total over $10 billion, but the law knocks that down to just over $5 billion statewide in base funding, while still fully funding charters and vouchers – directly from each district’s initial, already-reduced funding amount.
This means that while the state has technically set a base per pupil amount of $6,010, the myriad of formulas result in public school districts statewide receiving only half of the funds in state tax dollars, leaving local districts left to make up the difference with local levies.
Finally, here’s a look at the entire breakdown of per pupil funding for ECOT compared to Woodridge for those 11 students (according to the Ohio Department of Education; please note that the Special Education Funding is subject to the SSI, but not the Funding Cap):
The Woodridge Local School District was receiving just shy of $9,400 dollars from the state, but then being forced to hand over $106,000 to ECOT. An annual loss of nearly $97,000 dollars. And again, even if those students all enroll in Woodridge, the district is still getting short-changed.
This is just the story of one public school district – per our State politicians, one of the 20 wealthiest. Every district across the state has a similar story to tell about the net loss of state funding due to the SSI, the Funding Cap, charter schools, and vouchers.
If you’re wondering why YOUR district is having to make budget cuts while the Statehouse is touting an increased investment in schools, now you know – they’re just moving it around, shifting it down to locals, or shifting it out of the districts.
I promised earlier that I would put some information here about the Funding Cap for those information nerds like me. Here’s a detailed explanation from deep within the ODE website (click on the link and search “Funding Cap” to see the various calculations):
We recognize it is a lengthy video with a lot of important content. Thus, you can select specific aspects of the forum by using individual links (see below) to jump to key points of the evening.
It is not surprising that there are many frustrations regarding the often levy requests to fund our district. However, few fully appreciate the reason WHY the funding mechanisms function this way. 20+ years ago the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the method by which public schools are funded in our state is unconstitutional, yet nothing has been done to correct it. Worse, our tax dollars have been used in vast quantities for failing charter schools of which we’ve had very little input.
We hope you will learn from this information and decide where frustrations need to be redirected. Support Woodridge on November 7th but also join us as we push for proper change.
Here are links to specific time points from this informational event.
Introduction / Forum purpose – Wally Davis, Woodridge Local Schools Superintendent
Why Support Woodridge and Public Education Matters – Scott Karlo, Woodridge Levy Committee Chairperson
Introduction of Bill Phillis, Executive Director, The Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding
Bill will share details of school funding cycles and how Ohio’s public schools (like Woodridge) are burdened by the over reliance on property tax levies.
Introduction of Tom Morehouse, Woodridge Local Schools Treasurer
Detailed Explanation of the Disparity in Woodridge’s School Funding with regional comparisons of public education funding.
Introduction of Mike Collins, Executive Director, Real Choice Ohio
Mike will discuss the impact charter schools have had on Ohio’s school districts and what is being done across Ohio to push for reform.
Introduction of Jeff McHugh, Woodridge Local Schools Board President
Kick off for forum Q&A and thoughts from our locally elected school board.
PENINSULA — Voters living in the Woodridge Local School District will see a new school levy on the ballot in the Nov. 7 General Election.
The ballot issue, which has not yet been numbered by the Summit County Board of Elections, is a $4 million emergency levy, estimated to average 8.7-mills, that would be used for operating expenses, according to treasurer Tom Morehouse.
The district’s Board of Education opted to make the levy a five-year levy, he said.
“When the board looked at this, they thought a 10-year or continuing [levy] might be too much for the community,” Morehouse said.
The levy would cost the owner of property valued at $100,000 about $305 a year, Morehouse said.
If passed, the levy would fund nearly every expense in the district, the treasurer added, such as salaries, benefits, supplies, transportation and utilities. It would not go toward the district’s current building and renovation project.
“It’s not for the new building,” Morehouse said of the levy. Read more]]>
The state of Ohio’s new biennium budget cut funding to Woodridge by 25.9%. Only nine other districts in Ohio receive less state funding per pupil than Woodridge. This, along with state funding to charter schools, forces us to rely more heavily on local tax dollars. The district must make up for the loss of this funding in order to maintain our vision of excellence.
Superintendent Walter Davis informed the board that district officials have been meeting with campaign consultants and have ordered yard signs. The district is again contracting with the Impact Group to help with the campaign.
Davis said he also wants to conduct a number of information sessions around the district to explain “the unique Woodridge funding scenario, why we’re on the ballot so often and what all this looks like in terms of how we are supported by the state, or not.” He noted that in the upcoming state budget, the district will lose nearly 26 percent of its state funding. Read more]]>
The regular meeting included a work session with bond counsel John Larson, of Squire Patton Boggs. Larson outlined a number of levy options, as the district needs to plug a projected operating shortfall. He concentrated on the differences between an emergency levy and a current expense levy.
After discussing the options, the board agreed to place a five-year, $4 million emergency levy on the ballot. According to Larson, an emergency levy is a fixed-dollar levy and raises a designated amount each year. Read more]]>
While the projection was not unexpected, it does mean the board must work to balance the numbers and voters could see a levy on a future ballot, said district officials.
The five-year projection was one of two presentations by Treasurer Tom Morehouse. He said the district was in the black for the month of April. He stated he wished he could end his report on that positive note, but went on to discuss a couple of developments that will negatively impact the district’s finances. Read more]]>
On Nov. 8, Woodridge Local Schools will have a renewal levy on the ballot. This is not a new tax. The renewal levy will allow the district to maintain its current operations.
If It Passes?
If It Fails?
To help voters make an informed decision at the polls on Nov. 8, the Cuyahoga Falls News-Press will be offering a Levy Line regarding the Cuyahoga Falls City School District’s five-year, 9.97-mill levy renewal request and Woodridge Local School District’s 10-year, 6.67-mill levy renewal request.
Both school districts are seeking voter approval of levies that pay for operating expenses such as salaries and benefits, supplies, contract services, equipment, transportation and maintenance. If approved, Cuyahoga Falls’ levy would continue generating approximately $7.3 million annually, while Woodridge’s levy would continue raising $3 million per year.
Continue to site to see full article.]]>