Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Strickland Gives Third State of the State

In today’s State of the State address, made this afternoon to a joint House/Senate session in snow-bound Columbus, Governor Ted Strickland proposed continuing tuition freezes at public colleges and universities as his principal higher education initiative for the next two fiscal years.

Without specifying any way to pay for it, he plans to extend the tuition freeze to an additional year for all main, 4-year campuses and cap the tuition increase for 2010 to 3.5%. As for community colleges, they will have two more years of frozen tuition costs. There was no specific mention of Ohio's independent colleges, but this is not an instance where 'no news is good news.' Different proposed funding formulas and/or funding cuts are expected for our institutions as well.

Surely with the economic times the nation is facing, Governor Strickland and the legislature will have their hands full during this budget season.

During his address, Mr. Strickland also stated that his budget proposal will "focus on programs that are most vital to Ohio's future." First in this list of vital programs is education. Most of the governor's address focused on K-12 proposals, including all-day kindergarten, adding twenty school days to the school year, and expanding learning through tutoring and wellness programs. He also is proposing to replace the Ohio Graduation test (OGT) with the "ACT Plus," a four-part assessment including: ACT entrance exam, end of course exams, completion of a service learning project, and submission of a senior project. The ACT will be provided to all students at no cost, to encourage higher education opportunities.

A new "Teach Ohio" program was proposed by the governor as well, saying it would increase in-classroom methodology by establishing an alternative licensure program for professionals with the subject knowledge but lack of instruction background. This program will also empower the school board to dismiss teachers for "good cause," and additionally, strengthen the licensing of school principals. Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, under this plan, would be empowered to redesign college education programs to meet the needs and standards of Ohio's primary and secondary schools. AICUO will plan to work with the chancellor to ensure our teacher-education institutions are in-line with these needs and standards.

The governor also called for all Ohioans and Ohio state agencies to endure a "financial sacrifice." This sacrifice for agencies will most likely come through a planned 10-20% cut in funding and salary freezes for all or most employees.

Finally, the governor is planning to expand the Third Frontier Program through a new Ohio Jobs Stimulus Package. Funds for this expansion are expected to come from President Obama's new federal economic stimulus plan.

The final budget projection model is expected to be released early next week and introduced to the House shortly thereafter. AICUO will continue to meet with legislators and advocate for Ohio's independent colleges' spot at the policy table.

A copy of the transcript can be found here.

- Dustin A. Holfinger