Last week, Governor Kasich made his most recent replacement appointee to Ohio’s State Board of Education, Ronald Rudduck. Rudduck lives in Wilmington, Ohio, and fills the vacant District 10 seat, replacing Jeffrey Hardin, who passed away in March. He must run in November 2014 to retain the seat for the term ending Dec. 31, 2016.
You can read a nice write up on Rudduck in the Wilmington News Journal. Not mentioned in the article, however, is Rudduck’s political affiliation. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Rudduck is a registered and regularly voting Republican (since 2000, as recorded by the Ohio Secretary of State’s records; see Clinton County). State Board of Education candidates are one of the few elected positions that run without a party affiliation, presumably because public education shouldn’t be subject to the whims of political parties <eye roll>.
If Rudduck is expected to be a Kasich pawn, the Governor might be surprised, and we’re cautiously optimistic that Rudduck will stick to his own principles over those of Ohio’s far-right leadership. Rudduck’s resume is decent enough, and his experience as a district superintendent should serve him well. But it’s Rudduck’s experience as an adjunct professor and author that make him a most fascinating choice for this administration.
Rudduck’s LinkedIn bio reports that he has spent the last few years teaching graduate classes at Xavier University for Educational Administration majors, focused mainly on K-12 School Finance, Facilities and Business Operations. He is also the author of a recently self-published book on school funding in Ohio, “The ABC’s of School Finance.” The eBook version is less than $6 and, according to Rudduck, “This book provides an overview of Ohio School Funding in an easy to understand format…My books are targeted to aspiring and/or beginning administrators and can be helpful to board and community members interested in learning more about school funding and operations.”
We purchased the eBook for ourselves and found it to be as advertised — an easy-to-understand and comprehensive look at the history of school funding in Ohio, even including discussions of Senate Bill 5 and the Kasich administration’s first budget in 2010 and its devastating effect on public school funding. While the 100-page book may be a bit long for the casual observer, if you are deeply interested in the issues surrounding the massive problems with Ohio’s school funding model, we highly recommend this book — seriously.
The content of this book is what makes Rudduck’s appointment by Kasich so fascinating — Rudduck pulls no punches. The book is written as an extended glossary of the key terms used when discussing school funding, including extensive definitions of the state’s various funding models, the ever-changing legislation that comes with every new state governor and the problems he encountered with that as a school superintendent, and a detailed discussion of the DeRolph court case that declared school funding to be unconstitutional in Ohio:
The Ohio Supreme Court determined that the over reliance upon property tax to fund schools was the primary culprit in determining the system to be unconstitutional. [Rudduck, Ronald, The ABC's of School Finance, p. 23, blurb.com, (© 2012)]
Before he gets to that, however, Rudduck shares a personal observation about our elected officials in his introduction:
One of the major problems I first discovered was the frequency with which the state formulas and models which determine school revenue changed. Each election cycle politicians campaign on the premise of fixing school funding. Every newly elected governor and legislature feel the need to enact their own programs. Just when we get comfortable with the system, it is thrown out and a “new and improved” model is rolled out. [Rudduck, Ronald, The ABC's of School Finance, p. 3, blurb.com, (© 2012)]
Rudduck concisely explains HB 920, which went into effect in 1976:
Also at this time [the 1960’s and 1970’s], the State Legislature passed various bills to combat the rapid rise of property values and the costs to taxpayers. One such bill, HB 920, has limited the financial growth of school districts.Some have been critical of HB 920 as the main reason schools have had to return to the ballot so frequently. This can cause problems for local schools when costs continue to inflate without a corresponding increase in revenues from the property tax, which remains a major source of revenue for local governments in Ohio. Also, it should be noted that the State does not reimburse revenue to local schools for property tax not collected as a result of these credits. [Rudduck, Ronald, The ABC's of School Finance, pp. 54-55, blurb.com, (© 2012)]
The final chapter of Rudduck’s book is titled “Putting it All Together” and discusses strategies for dealing with the crisis of school funding in Ohio. Rudduck’s observations seem to be in direct conflict with Governor Kasich and the far-right legislators currently making budgetary decisions in our state.
Rudduck discusses the realities of increasing costs and the associated confusion about school funding among the voting public:
The dollars necessary to educate students across the state are significant and those costs continue to rise.
The complexities of school finance are similar in depth to only those of the IRS Tax Code. In both only a few highly specialized individuals can figure either one out and when you think you have it figured out it, changes. Never before has the need been greater to simplify the methods and means of school funding. And never before has it been so important. As more and more demands are made of our schools, and fewer dollars are delivered, the parents and taxpayers must study and understand these issues in order to become informed voters. Uninformed and uneducated voters are more likely to vote NO on the issues. [Rudduck, Ronald, The ABC's of School Finance, p. 91, blurb.com, (© 2012)]
New state BOE member Rudduck also explains why local taxpayers are increasingly on the hook for passing levies:
While state legislators continue to wrestle with issues of equity and fairness in funding public education in Ohio, public schools continue to depend more upon the support of local taxpayers. The public must demand a new “thorough and efficient” (sound familiar?) system of our elected representatives. Until then our local districts and taxpayers will be increasingly left holding the bag and the responsibility for the education of our children. [Rudduck, Ronald, The ABC's of School Finance, p. 91, blurb.com, (© 2012)]
Then, in a passage that makes us wonder if Kasich’s advisers didn’t research this appointment thoroughly enough, Rudduck discusses the negative effect of Kasich’s first budget:
There are a variety of reasons for the sudden decline in school’s cash reserves and balances but one of the most notable is the leveling in state funding. Many school districts rely predominantly on state aid, which is calculated on a per pupil basis or the ” ADM” (look it up) count. In the state’s latest budget, between the loss of federal stimulus dollars, cuts in property tax reimbursements, and direct cuts, Ohio’s K-12 schools will receive $1.8 billion dollars less in the current “biennium” than in the prior biennium. [Rudduck, Ronald, The ABC's of School Finance, p. 92, blurb.com, (© 2012)]
Finally, Rudduck explains why decreased funding for a decreasing student population actually doesn’t work:
Although the money available to schools has either stabilized or been shrinking, expenditures have grown rapidly despite the fact that Ohio’s school population has not… Schools receive funding from the state on a per pupil basis as reported by their “ADM.” It stands to reason then that fewer students would mean fewer dollars flowing to the district. Increasing expenditures with declining revenue is a recipe for disaster! [Rudduck, Ronald, The ABC's of School Finance, p. 93, blurb.com, (© 2012)]
We can only hope recent State Board of Education appointee Ron Rudduck will have an opportunity to share his knowledge of school funding with the administration and talk some sense into them.
Before they find out about this book and ask Rudduck to resign his position…