The new biennial state budget signed into law in July might best be described as a mixed blessing, according to Canal Winchester school officials who met Tuesday to discuss the ramifications of House Bill 1.

The new biennial state budget signed into law in July might best be described as a mixed blessing, according to Canal Winchester school officials who met Tuesday to discuss the ramifications of House Bill 1.

A nearly three-hour special school board meeting at the Education Center began with Superintendent Kimberley Miller-Smith outlining the impact H.B 1 will have on the district. The meeting was attended by about a dozen school administrators and a few residents.

"These are very initial discussions," Miller-Smith said. "We're learning new things about it every day. There's going to be lots of conversation about this and planning."

H.B.1, the state's biennial budget and "evidence-based" education reforms, was signed into law by Gov.Ted Strickland on July 17. The reforms feature a complex formula for calculating school district funding.

"We're going to receive more money earmarked for teachers' salaries than we've ever, ever received," Miller-Smith said. "But in the long run, we lose $135,000. In a $31-million budget, that's not terrifically significant. But there will be more required personnel costs."

Those required costs include 10.87 "family and community liaisons" at a salary of $38,633 each in fiscal year 2010, she said.

"I have no idea what they would do," Miller-Smith said.

"You mean we'll be spending $400,000 for a category of employee that we don't even know about?" board Vice President Chuck Miller asked.

"It's on us right now in meeting these mandates," Miller-Smith said. "I salute the ideas and the reforms, but can this (state) budget hold up? Keno hasn't come through like it was promised."

She also pointed out that the district's millage rates will decline over time.

"Our taxpayers are going to pay for it one way or another," board President Stan Smith said. "These are all wonderful things, but the plan is woefully underfunded.

"If there ever was a time to scream at your legislator, the time is now, he said. "It's setting up a lot communities for failure."

"That's what we're being set up for: a whole set of unfunded mandates," Miller said.

According to the funding formula, Canal Winchester is ranked as an "urban/suburban high-income" district.

"I'd really like to find the individual that named us a rich district and bring them in front of the voters," Miller said.

The wide-ranging provisions in H.B. 1 include offering optional all-day kindergarten, reducing the number of calamity days districts are allowed and replacing the Ohio Graduation Tests. The bill also included a repeal of Jarod's Law, named after 5-year-old Jarod Bennett, who was crushed and killed in 2005 by a falling cafeteria table. Among other things, Jarod's Law called for the creation of a school health and safety network and required annual inspections of every school in the state by the Ohio State Board of Health.

All-day kindergarten drew the most discussion at Tuesday's meeting, with Miller-Smith raising the possibility of reducing classroom sizes and renting space in churches to add classrooms.

"We'll have three times as many kindergarten teachers as we have now," Stan Smith said. He also said buses would be running more often to transport children whose parents waived the all-day attendance.

Miller-Smith noted several other provisions in House Bill 1 that were cause for concern to the district, including:

Waiving school fees for students who qualify for the state's free school lunch program. Adding career readiness and financial literacy to its curriculum. Giving students below the ninth grade who complete advanced work high school credit. Appointing a "family and civic engagement team." Adjusting to revised standards given by the Ohio Department of Education every five years. Developing new operating standards. Allowing only licensed health professionals to administer prescription drugs to students. Licensing teachers at four levels, with an interim "transition program." Requiring all teachers to take four hours of in-service training in abuse prevention.
The provisions in H.B. 1 will be implemented from now until 2011.