COLUMBUS, Ohio - The political fire still burns in Ohio to push more public money into classrooms, even after other states have backed off the idea amid evidence it does little to improve kids' grades.
The state's latest strategy is to mandate that district spending be winnowed from the existing five spending categories to two by 2013: classroom or non-classroom.
It's part of a push by Republican Gov. John Kasich to reduce overhead and direct funds to classroom instruction. In-classroom spending percentages eventually would appear on state report cards, alongside student test scores.
In this May 8 photo, Carolyn Newman teaches second grade at Moreland Hills Elementary School in Pepper Pike, Ohio.
"It certainly doesn't require any particular funding one way or the other," said Barbara Shaner, co-executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials. "But the idea would be to call attention to it, so that people would be more judicious about putting more in the classroom and not being top-heavy."
In the past decade, some states adopted the so-called "65 percent solution," requiring that at least 65 percent of public education dollars be spent on classroom instruction. Ohio's 2006 Republican nominee for governor, Ken Blackwell, was among politicians who backed the idea, but it went nowhere in the state after Blackwell lost the election.
Many states have since adopted - then rejected - the mandate. Some found it unworkable to calculate, monitor and enforce. Others looked at a 2005 Standard & Poor's report and other evidence and deemed it an ineffective policy not worth the effort.
S&P could find no direct tie between how much money districts invested in categories directly linked to classroom instruction - as opposed to administrative costs - and higher student performance.
Even the originator of the 65 percent solution, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, now says it overreached. Byrne peddled the idea to lawmakers in statehouses across the country. Louisiana, Texas, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, and Indiana all adopted or flirted with the idea.
"The 65 percent was never really the solution," Byrne now says. "It was a stopgap measure to keep things from getting worse."
Today, Byrne is pushing for states to adopt school voucher programs that use taxpayer dollars to send children to private schools.
Nationwide, Ohio ranks 46th on classroom spending and 12th on school administration by the Brookings Institution, spending 49 percent more than the national average on overhead.
Kasich continues to push the idea that increased classroom spending means better student performance. It was part of his message in a State of the State speech he historically took outside Columbus to Wells Academy in Steubenville, in eastern Ohio.
"Wells spends its money where it really needs to go and it's something we can all learn from," he said. "It directs its money to the classroom, and the teachers work together like doctors do in an operating room."