An Investment in Ohio Education Innovation is an Investment in Ohio’s Economic Future

Topics: Education Policy

Matt Williams testified before the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education about the need to invest in education innovation. Last week, at the request of the Speaker of the House, I testified before the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education. I was there to testify on broad contours of Governor Kasich’s proposed FY 2018- 2019 education budget as contained in House Bill 49. I focused my testimony on the need to invest in education innovation, including the Office of Innovation within the Ohio Department of Education, in Ohio’s 2018-2019 biennium budget.

KnowledgeWorks believes that personalized and competency-based learning provides a significant opportunity for Ohio’s children. Our ability to compete as a state—and for communities to attract growth industries and create jobs—demands a fresh approach to public education. The one-size-fits all philosophy of our past and too much of our present doesn’t ensure our future economic and democratic success. I encouraged Ohio’s policymakers to continue to advance innovative practices, such as competency-based learning in the upcoming biennium budget. KnowledgeWorks was disappointed to not see competency-based learning included in the Governor’s Budget Recommendations for fiscal years 2018-2019 as it was in the last biennium budget.

As a reminder, the 131st General Assembly created the Competency-Based Education Pilot in Amended Substitute House Bill 64, the FY 2016-2017 state operating budget, by providing $2,000,000 for five sites to develop and administer competency-based education programs. Applicants included community schools, joint vocational school districts, STEM schools, traditional school districts and educational service center-led consortia. Each pilot site received $200,000 per academic year for one planning and one implementation year. The pilot is currently in the first year of implementation. The five pilot sites selected are: Cincinnati Public Schools, Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools, the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, the Fairfield County Educational Service Center, and the Geauga County Educational Service Center.

These pilots have breathed greater life into Ohio’s personalized learning and education innovation investments by offering new opportunities to districts, schools, and, most importantly, students. This has also been an efficient, effective expenditure of tax-payer dollars. These pilots are currently impacting nearly 300 teachers, over 8300 students in over 70 schools in the state by adding another $2,000,000 into the 2018-2019 budget more schools and districts would be able to develop and implement new competency-based systems. This would be a positive step forward for the state of Ohio and its education innovation agenda.

Additionally, we, as a state, have the potential to invest in the Straight A Fund as a bold way to build a system that can transform the way we educate our students in our state. KnowledgeWorks is supportive of a continued investment in the Straight A Fund. I added one important caveat. The Straight A Fund should be focused on the following priorities:

  1. Scale up best practices from investments made in previous fiscal years.
  2. Invest in and spreading personalized and competency-based learning models.
  3. Invest in targeted, personalized professional development for educators in the state. Educator capacity is foundational to scaling these innovative approaches and we must give our educators the support they richly deserve.
  4. Invest in networking vanguard districts, schools, and educators to further elevate best practices in innovative teaching and learning.

I closed my testimony with the following:

“U.S. News and World Report just released its first “best states” ranking. The heaviest weighted issues were for healthcare and education. Ohio did not fare well. Ohio’s overall ranking is 35th. In education and the economy, Ohio ranked 38th and 31st respectively. As each of you well know, education and the economy are inextricably linked. We, as a state, must do better. What’s more we must innovate our education system; we must prepare each student for jobs that we’ve not yet created. That type of readiness will take schools that drive innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and a new level of adaptability and nimbleness. Investments in education innovation will directly, albeit over time, pay dividends for the state’s economy and thus its future.”