State Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) acknowledges that school funding "is not rocket science."
Instead, he said, "It's really a lot harder than rocket science."
Stebelton, chairman of the Ohio House of Representatives Education Committee, gave an update on key education provisions of House Bill 59, the state's new biennial budget, at the Pickerington Chamber of Commerce Education Summit, held July 19 at the Ohio University Pickerington Center.
The biennial budget bill was signed by Gov. John Kasich on June 30.
Terry Ryan, from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and three central Ohio school district superintendents -- Steve Dackin from Reynoldsburg; Rob Walker from Pickerington; and Steve Wigton from Lancaster -- attended the summit, discussing Common Core standards for mathematics and English.
The Common Core standards were developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2009. Ohio adopted the standards in 2010, joining 44 other states.
Stebelton said the challenge with school funding from the state is that, even districts that similar in size are not similar in funding needs.
"We have wealthy, poor, rural and inner city districts; some with real estate wealth but low residential income and some with lower property values but higher average incomes," he said.
He said the 2013 state budget puts more than $15 billion into traditional public schools over the next two years.
"We have not had a functioning school funding formula since 2009," Stebelton said.
He said the longtime reliance on "guarantees," where no school district would get less in state funding than the year before, is not sustainable. But it was continued in the new budget's education provisions.
"No district receives less than the previous year," Stebelton said. "We hope to get away from guarantees and caps, but had to continue them in this bill."
He said the formula begins with "Core Opportunity Aid," giving a base amount of spending per pupil at $5,745 in fiscal year 2014 and $5,780 in fiscal year 2015.
It also includes "targeted assistance," so that poorer districts get additional money on top of the base figure.
"We also provided for economically disadvantaged aid for school districts with huge amounts of poverty," Stebelton said. "This is where the money has to be spent."
Ryan said the Common Core standards cover reading, writing, speaking and listening, vocabulary and mathematics.
"They spell out expectations of what students should know and be able to do at the end of every grade, from kindergarten through high school," he said. "They are not a national curriculum or national mandate or a federal takeover of education."
He said local school districts may still control the curriculum, textbooks, programs and resources that teachers use in the classrooms.
"The existing state standards, including Ohio's, even when met, were giving students and their parents a false sense of accomplishment," he said. "Too many students are ill-prepared for college, the workforce or the military. We know that 40 percent of incoming Ohio freshmen need remediation (once at college) in English or math."
Dackin talked about Reynoldsburg's development of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) schools of choice and high school academies.
"Our teachers have embraced these new standards," he said. "I can find no difference in Common Core's rigor than in the ACT Quality Core Standards we have been implementing. We created high school academies to grab kids' interests, their hearts and passions and aligned them to these standards.
"I know that the fact 40 percent of kids need mediation is a travesty," he said. "We need to do something about that pronto."
Walker said Pickerington is in its fourth year of implementing Common Core.
"This whole transformation of education is overdue," he said. "What we have done is to also include educational coaches at all grade levels and in all subjects. We need our students to function at a higher level of thinking and learning."
Wigton said Lancaster teachers consider the new standards "a step up."
"There are actually less standards to learn in the Common Core and that means deeper learning," he said. "They are also heavy on evidence-based learning and I like that. The standards focus on implementing technology and using mathematics to create an argument to solve a problem and to justify your position."
More information about the Common Core standards is available online at corestandards.org.