Officials concerned about looming cuts
NILES – Schools could see a loss in shared service programs and staff positions if proposed funding cuts are implemented, according to area officials.
“They’re trying to put us out of business in the next two years with these cuts,” Trumbull County Educational Service Center Superintendent Michael Hanshaw said.
Mahoning County ESC superintendent Ron Iarussi said, “The problem here is … we provide services to the local districts to help save them money. When we get these budget cuts, it makes it harder and harder for us not to pass the costs on to those districts, which increases their costs.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget calls for up to a $91 million loss in funding for 55 Educational Service Centers in the state, which provide services to school
Kasich budget spokesman Jim Lynch has said that each center in Ohio would have its state funding cut by 22.5 percent in fiscal year 2014 and 27.2 percent the next fiscal year. Money previously deducted and sent to service centers to support mandated services would be returned to districts.
The centers currently are paid $6.50 per pupil for services such as curriculum, gifted supervision and bus driver trainings. They also receive supervisory services funding for curriculum and special education.
“I really don’t believe that the governor’s budget office personnel understand the workings of ESCs because there’s no way they would cut the funding if they truly knew what we did and what we provide for our school districts,” Hanshaw said.
“If you take away all our funding, the burden gets put back on the districts.”
The ESCs provide districts with shared services such as speech and physical therapists, school nurses and curriculum and attendance supervisors, he said. The centers also deploying state initiatives to school districts.
“When the state standards first came out, we were the first ESC to implement a countywide in-service day,” Hanshaw said. “It’s things like that are going to be destroyed, not only financially but educationally, as well,” he said.
Iarussi said that in Mahoning County, ”Right now we’re doing a lot with professional development for teachers, the changes in the teacher evaluation system … all the reform that’s coming.”
Austintown Superintendent Vincent Colaluca said he is a big advocate of shared services.
“We’re committed to continue that partnership,” he said, adding that they recently initiated a self-contained STEM program for the seventh grade as a co-collaboration between Austintown and the MCESC.
Colaluca also commended MCESC on providing services that are cost-effective for the district, and that it would be very difficult for them – even as a large district – to provide administrative positions that are offered by the ESC.
Liberty Schools Superintendent Stan Watson said, “If the funding is cut back to the ESCs, the districts are going to have to make individual decisions on how to pay for those services. If our costs go up …we have to reduce someplace in order to make that up.”
Warren Schools Superintendent Michael Notar said funding cuts to ESCs will likely have a smaller impact on his district as compared to others in Trumbull County.
“A lot of the services that they provide, we already provide in-house because we’re such a large district,” he said, but emphasized the importance of ESCs, especially in smaller districts.
Hanshaw said his office has been in contact with state legislators in hopes they will go back to Columbus and fight for the ESCs.
“Education is not a competition. Education is for the students in those buildings. We have to take care of kids first, not the political process. It doesn’t work in education,” Hanshaw said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.