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Reginald Fields
By Reginald Fields May 30, 2011

Gov. John Kasich says Ohio near bottom in classroom spending, but near top in administrative costs

Gov. John Kasich took office complaining that not enough money spent on public education was going towards classroom instruction. The implication was that Ohio’s public schools instead are spending too much on administrator salaries and slighting schoolchildren.

Well, he’s not implying anymore, he’s now saying as much.

"We are in the bottom 10 in dollars in the classroom and the top 10 in dollars in the bureaucracy and red tape," the governor told a national television audience on May 12 during a live interview on FOX News cable television.

The governor has made similar claims in the past, but his statement also contained something new, so Politifact Ohio decided to take a look.

It has been well documented that Kasich’s first operating budget released in March suggested putting the squeeze on public school education, proposing to cut funding to local school districts by 11.9 percent next fiscal year and another 4.9 percent the year after.

It would seem contradictory to cut funding to schools and yet chide them for not spending more in the classroom, school officials say. At the same time, Kasich wants to increase the number of charter schools, direct competition to school districts.

But the Republican governor insists he is giving the districts choices for how to save money and compete and yet still boost classroom spending all while drawing down fewer state dollars.

One is with controversial Senate Bill 5, the collective bargaining reform law that is suspended while a challenge is mounted against it by labor groups, including teachers unions. The law sharply curtails collective bargaining power of teachers and other public union workers, bans strikes and eliminates binding arbitration.

The other option the governor says districts can turn to is cutting their administrative and overhead costs by trimming the number of administrators they employ and looking for ways to consolidate their services.

PolitiFact Ohio checked a variation of the first part of Kasich’s statement last November when the new governor complained that Ohio was 46th in the country in classroom spending. We rated that claim Mostly True.

New this statement is the claim that Ohio ranks in "the top 10 in dollars in the bureaucracy and red tape."

It turns out the governor based his most recent statement, including the new part of the claim about administrative costs, on the same information as his previous comments, a 2010 report from the Greater Ohio Policy Center and Brookings Institution.

The report, ‘Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy,’ focused on ways to improve Ohio’s economy by strengthening the state’s urban cores. Revising how education dollars are spent was one of the report’s conclusions.

"Ohio ranks 47th in the nation in the share of elementary and secondary education spending that goes to instruction and ninth in the share that goes to administration," the report states. A spokesman for Kasich said it was that line in the 76-page report that the governor is referring to with his comments.

It’s important to note, though, that the statistics, from the National Center for Education Statistics, are from a state-by-state analysis of data from the 2007-2008 school year, meaning they are about three years old.

The Dayton Daily News, which reviewed U.S. Department of Education statistics, recently reported that Ohio was 12th highest in terms of the amount of money spent on administrative costs and 46th lowest for spending in the classroom.

While those statistics do not perfectly match Kasich’s statement of Ohio being in the top 10 for administrative spending, they were close enough that  the administration highlighted the story in support of Kasich’s position.

We agree. That the Education Department’s data has Ohio slipping to 12th on administrative spending is not enough to make the governor’s underlying point inaccurate. Knowing it provides clarification.

On the Truth-O-Meter,  we rate the governor’s statement Mostly True.

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Gov. John Kasich says Ohio near bottom in classroom spending, but near top in administrative costs

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