Every two years, the State of Ohio puts together its biennium budget. It basically outlines how the State will spend its resources. Governor Kasich’s $144.3 billion two-year proposed budget was released in January and has already begun down the path to an approved state budget by June 30.
To those who have never followed it (and sometimes to those who have!), the state budget process can be a mystery. Who makes the decisions on how Ohio’s state dollars are spent? How do we get the final approved budget? Finally, why should career-tech educators care about the process?
The first time I ever saw a state budget recommendation (many years ago), my expectation was that it would be an excel spreadsheet filled with numbers; but that is not the case. It is a piece of legislation that outlines initiatives, — some of these initiatives are even “budget neutral” because they don’t have any dollars/expenditures attached to them. It is the budget bill that is the legislative vehicle to get the initiatives passed.
There are also oh-so-unpopular items in the budget called “unfunded mandates” in the budget. This means there are activities being proposed with no funding attached. A good example in this year’s budget is the proposed requirement that colleges cover the majority of the cost of textbooks…an extra cost usually paid by students.
Following is a very simplified version of the process that leads to budget development. There is much more that goes into the budget discussions/process, but this should provide a good overview:
Step 1 – The Governor’s Budget Proposal
The Governor outlines his administration’s spending plan for the next two years. Just like a personal or family budget, he looks at revenue and savings (rainy day) and applies an overall budget philosophy. For example, many of us don’t like to dip into our savings, but others say “that’s what it is there for.” The final budget must by law be approved by June 30, effective July 1 - Click here to see the Gov. Kasich’s summary of education funding in this year’s budget.
Gov. Kasich’s budget recommendations also include projects/programs that are important to addressing workforce development challenges, social programs and other important initiatives to keep Ohio progressing.
Step 2 – The General Assembly
The Ohio House of Representatives Finance Committee, chaired by Ryan Smith, and the Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education, chaired by Robert Cupp, review provisions in the budget and make recommendations/changes to the Governor’s proposed budget. The Budget becomes a piece of legislation and is assigned a House Bill number – this is why it is often referred to as House Bill X”
You would think this is when Ohio ACTE starts its advocacy action, but in reality, Ohio ACTE legislative counsel Terrence O’Donnell and Will Vorys of the Dickinson Wright Law firm and I meet regularly with staff at ODE, ODHE, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and legislators to make sure career-tech ed is a consideration in all conversations regarding workforce development and education. Ohio ACTE officer and other career-tech educators are also part of these conversations, offering perspective from an educator’s and administrator’s point of view. We all work with ODE and ODHE to make sure we understand the proposals and are working together for career-tech ed.
For career-tech (and education in general) the heart of the budget is the funding formula. Since I have been Executive Director of Ohio ACTE (10 years), each biennium, there have been changes to the funding formula. Because of how education in Ohio is funded, for many schools, the state budget portion makes up the bulk of their funds. For career-tech, there are “weighted funds” meaning additional funds that are used to cover the cost of equipment or other costs associated.
Will and Terrence set up meetings with key legislators and members of ODE staff involved in the budget process. This is where Ohio ACTE leadership and career-tech educators help get the career-tech message across to our lawmakers. Often, educators attend meetings, give testimony in legislative hearings, make presentations at finance committee meetings or answers questions that come up at any of the meetings.
Once the House of Representatives makes its recommendations and proposed changes, the next version or the “House Version” of the budget goes to the Senate. The same process takes place in the Senate, as our Ohio Senators review the House’s budget and make changes/recommendations. The Senate Finance Committee is chaired by Scott Oelslager. This is the opportunity for the Senate to make changes to the budget recommended by the House as well as have its own input.
After the Senate has passed and agreed on its changes, this new “Senate version” is compared to the House version and changes negotiated until one final version emerges.
Step 3 - Implementation
Finally, the budget is passed, and sent to the Governor for his signature. Once passed, the process of implementing the budget provisions begins. Often, that entails schools changing processes and procedures, implementing new programs or reallocating funds.
With any new initiatives, there are questions about how schools should comply with changes, new policies and procedures. In the case of career-tech ed, our ODE Office of CTE helps educators understand, prepare for and implement changes. There are also other changes that impact all educators.
All career-tech educators should care about the budget and understand that it’s the funding decisions that impact whether career-tech education is growing and meeting the needs of students in the state of Ohio. While funding for education might increase, it could be directed toward specific activities. By understanding the budget, you understand the philosophy of our state and government officials and what they see as important to Ohio’s success and progress and where education, especially career-tech, fits into the plans for Ohio’s future.