Tri-County not recipient of state's Straight A Fund, has another chance next year

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NELSONVILLE — Although Tri-County Career Center isn’t the recipient in this year’s disbursement of Straight A Funds, Supt. William Wittman said he will try again next year.

As previously reported, the $250 million Straight A Fund, created in the state budget signed over the summer by Gov. John Kasich, is designed to spur creativity and innovation in schools. It’s the largest statewide, competitive innovation fund in the history of American education, according to the Ohio Department of Education. This year, $100 million was allocated to 24 projects involving more than 150 school districts and other partners. Next year, the remaining $150 million will be up for grabs.

Wittman applied for nearly $3.8 million to create a new welding program and for construction of a demonstration lab. Had the school been awarded the grant, he expected the program could benefit 240 students.

Of the 24 projects awarded grant money, most are clustered around Columbus and northern Ohio. One $14 million project granted in Southeast Ohio was granted to the Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Personalized Learning Network, which comprises 27 rural schools that serve a total of 48,000 students, 50 percent of whom live in poverty. The project includes regional partners like Ohio University and Hocking College. The lead on the project is Northern Local School District in Perry County.

Bill Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, is a critic of the Straight A fund.

“Many school districts, particularly low-wealth districts, need funds for basics,” Phillis said. “The Straight A fund takes money that would be more effectively used in the school foundation program, or one or more of the categorized programs. Until the state provides for a more constitutional, thorough and efficient system of public common schools, pet projects such as the Straight A fund should be ditched.”

John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said there is no correlation between the amount a school gets from the state and school performance.

“Schools need to do a lot to educate their students, but there’s no silver bullet,” Charlton said. “That being said, this fund is about supporting innovative, sustainable ideas.”

The money designated for the Straight A Fund came from the lottery profits education fund, said Jim Lynch, a spokesman the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. Fiscal year 2014’s appropriation of $100 million represented 11.2 percent of the appropriated lottery profits, according to Lynch. Fiscal year 2015’s appropriation of $150 million represented 14.6 percent of the appropriated lottery profits.

The total lottery profits appropriations are $841.0 million in fiscal year 2014 and $974.5 million in fiscal year 2015.