Ohio Smart Schools Initiative Part of Discussion on Education Efficiencies at Annual Grantmakers Conference

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Ohio Education Matters head Benson to also discuss philanthropy’s role to address education funding crisis.

Andrew Benson

Our view is that the state must provide guidance, direction, flexibility and tools to local districts and schools if it plans to cut state support to education.

Ohio Education Matters Executive Director Andy Benson will present an overview of the Ohio Smart Schools initiative and discuss philanthropy’s role in public education funding at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday as part of a panel discussion during the Ohio Grantmakers Forum’s Annual Conference.

Also on Wednesday’s panel is Lisa Gray, Education Initiative Project Director, Ohio Grantmakers Forum; and Terry Ryan, Vice President for Ohio Programs and Policy, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation Institute. The event is being held at the Hilton Netherland Plaza in downtown Cincinnati.

The Ohio Smart Schools initiative -- which includes research studies on everything from state mandates, new governance models, sharing services and providing tools to help schools be top performers -- is designed to give direction to state leaders on how to approach education spending in the upcoming biennial budget in a way that supports education but also addresses the grim economic realities of state finances.

KnowledgeWorks and Ohio Education Matters, its subsidiary, have reached out to partner with stakeholders across the political and education spectrum to help figure out how public education in Ohio can better improve student achievement without raising costs, can reducing spending without hurting student achievement, and can better tap community resources to improve student achievement.

"Our view is that the state must provide guidance, direction, flexibility and tools to local districts and schools if it plans to cut state support to education,” Benson said. “It is not sufficient for the state to make cuts and then tell local educators they can figure out on their own how to absorb those cuts. We plan to provide to state leaders the insights and tools for them to help local educators to make smart decisions on education spending.”

Benson said the non-partisan Ohio Smart Schools initiative has been in touch with advisers to Governor-elect John Kasich and Republican state leaders, many of those contacts made prior to the election. The initiative has also partnered or worked with Ohio Grantmakers Forum, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Ohio Education Association, and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

“We’ve all got to figure this out together,” said Benson. “The stakes are too high for our kids and schools to get mired in political infighting.”

Earlier this week Benson talked about the initiative to more than 200 local school board members, superintendents, and treasurers at the Ohio School Boards Association Capital Conference and Trade Show in Columbus

Ohio Smart Schools is funded by KnowledgeWorks Foundation, with partial funding from the Cleveland Foundation.

Ohio Education Matters, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, is a statewide, public policy research organization that focuses on connecting the dots between great innovations and those in the community who can make change. As a non-partisan entity, Ohio Education Matters acts as a catalyst of an education transformation in the state by conducting research, advocacy, engagement and policy development that inspires others to make the system changes needed today to prepare Ohio’s children for the future.

Knowledgeworks is bringing the future of learning to America’s high schools and creating widespread, lasting change in the communities and states we serve. Our portfolio of high school approaches includes New Tech Network high schools, Edworks high school redesign, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Early College High Schools.

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Byron McCauley
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