Episode 45 - Follow the Money - 16:1 Episode 45 - Follow the Money - 16:1

Episode 45 - Follow the Money

October 14, 2021

This week on 16:1, the hosts follow the money in an in-depth analysis of the sources of (and strings attached to) public school funding in the United States. Learn about the competing funding formulas that are occasionally unconstitutional, the levies that might greet you at the ballot box, and the struggles that state departments of education face to balance budgets. Since last episode, Chelsea has spent some time learning about arts and crafts, and Kate has become familiar with an unusual bear.


Understanding Levies, Ohio School Boards Association

The Next 400: School funding system ruled unconstitutional 4 times, failing students in poor rural, urban areas

Ohio Budget Bill – Fordham Institute

The Cutest Bear


Chelsea: [00:00:00] Alright, ready? Let’s go.

Katie: You got your podcast voice on. 

Chelsea: Hi. 

Katie: Hello. 

Chelsea: Good evening.

Katie: Hello. 

Chelsea: Welcome friends to another episode of 16:1. 

Katie: [laughter] I hate this episode already. 

Chelsea: No, I love it. It’s great. 

Katie: How are you?

Chelsea:  I’m doing well. How are you?

Katie: Fine. I’ll say fine.

Chelsea:  Fine. I’m fine. 

Katie:  I feel fine. 

Chelsea: That’s not how the song goes. [singing, to the tune of I Feel Good by James Brown] I feel fine… no?

Katie: That’s as good as you’re getting today.

Chelsea: [singing] It’s as good as you’re gettin’.

Katie: Is this the whole show? 

Chelsea: Yeah.

Katie: Okay. 

Chelsea: Okay. Well…

Katie: Doing fine. 

Chelsea: Do you care to elaborate? 

Katie: Not great. 

Chelsea: [laughter] Okay. 

Katie: It was a long day. Yeah, we were without water, like randomly. Um, so that is a bit of a problem, as you can imagine…

Chelsea: …like running water and sewer, like that kind of…?

Katie: Oh, just like flush your toilet kind of water. 

Chelsea: Yeah, the kind that is required to flush toilets.

Katie: So then it was just like, “Sorry, kids!”

Chelsea: Imagine how stinky teenagers are on a normal day when there’s running water and then crank it up.

Katie: Yeah. Um, and so then we were just like taking turns, taking students to the port-a-potties outside.

Chelsea: That sounds like a fun adventure of a day.

Katie: So welcome to public school!

Chelsea: That’s not in the job description. 

Katie: So that’s, that’s why I’m going to say I’m fine. 

Chelsea: Okay. 

Katie: How about you?

Chelsea: I’ll give it to you. Well, I had running water most of the day, so…

Katie: Most?

Chelsea: Yeah, I mean, I was out and about.

Katie: Oh, ok. [00:01:30] 

Chelsea: I was taking the dog to get a haircut. She looks real cute. She’s got a candy corn bandana on. The cat puked on the Lovesac this morning. At like 6:32 I sat bolt upright in bed, listening to the cat hork on the Lovesac. 

Katie: “Hork.”

Chelsea: So that was fun. Um… [frustrated noises].

Katie: We’re just kind of going through it. 

Chelsea: It’s just been a time. It’s been a time.

Katie: That should have been my answer. [frustrated noises] No, we went to the pumpkin patch. I love the pumpkin patch. It is like…

Chelsea: Yes, that was fun. That was a highlight.

Katie: It’s just the best. Like nothing makes me happier than picking out pumpkins…

Chelsea: I mean, and then we ate Taco Bell.

Katie: Like good pumpkins, which I have to kind of steer you towards. Cause you don’t quite have the pumpkin eye yet.

Chelsea: I mean, I don’t, I don’t have the, the eye for…

Katie: You’re getting there. 

Chelsea: The eye for the orange, as it were.

Katie: Not just orange. 

Chelsea: Well, yeah, I guess you’re right, one of the ones we got was a grayish green. 

Katie: Oh, I like that one. The sideways one?

Chelsea: It looks very strange, but I like it a lot. 

Katie: He’s a good gourd.

Chelsea: Yeah. he’s weird looking, 

Katie: But that was good. And it’s like fun to support local. That makes me feel good. 

Chelsea: Good.

Katie: Nice. [slurping sound]

Chelsea: Good. I wonder how…

Katie: [laughter] We can not record this late ever again. 

Chelsea: How many of the dog’s mouth sounds do we just record for posterity? 

Katie: Good. 

Chelsea: [chewing noises] Okay. 

Katie: So what’d you pick this week? 

Chelsea: Oh, we’re going to talk about, how… follow the money. We’re going to talk about how public schools are funded.

Katie: Or not!

Chelsea: Or not! Hey, maybe. Hey, maybe we [00:03:00] should stop defunding education. 

Katie: Let’s just throw some pennies at this and hope it sticks!

Chelsea: Yeah. So a lot of this uh, we’ve touched on a lot of this here and there, and some of this about like sort of the breakdown of sources of funding we actually just covered a few episodes ago in the “Clear the List” episode. But, for the most part public school districts in, again, we’re talking about mostly in the U.S., but public school districts use a combination of state funds, uh, local funds that usually come from things like property taxes (sometimes income taxes) and federal money. And I don’t know if you remember this, but it at least blew my mind a little bit because the slice of the pie that comes from federal funding is very small. It’s only 88%. 

Katie: Yeah, yes. 

Chelsea: And I just thought that was… I don’t know why I think that’s weird. I guess it’s just… there’s so much money floating, floating around America and I would have thought…

Katie: Is there?

Chelsea: I just would have thought that…

Katie: Where is it?

Chelsea: Well, maybe it’s an offshore banking account…

Katie: Is this one of those things that happens because of global warming?

Chelsea: The money evaporates?

Katie: The money evaporates into the ozone…

Chelsea: It dries up?

Katie: With my mom’s, uh, with her hairspray she’s been using since the eighties?

Chelsea: Yeah, the stuff is very flammable. Yeah. 

Katie: [laughter] I, you know, we talk about money like there is so much of it, and it’s just like, where is it? And then, okay. So the day that Facebook went down, do you remember that fateful day? 

Chelsea: I do remember that. 

Katie: What a great day that was. That was one of my best days.

Chelsea: It was just like, you know, really, would it be the worst thing if it just didn’t come back ever?

Katie: No, I just missed Instagram. I’m still on team Instagram, but yes. 

Chelsea: Yeah, you do like your Insta.

Katie: I know, I wish they [00:04:30] weren’t associated. That was… anyways, we’ll get into that. 

Chelsea: Yeah. Well, they might be forced to break them up again. That’d be nice.

Katie: Well, I hope to own it someday, so that’s great for me. 

Chelsea: Good. 

Katie: My life goal. 

Chelsea: You’re the next …

Katie: Hello, Instagram. It’s me!

Chelsea: … owner and CEO of Instagram, 

Katie: Your ex owner. Where was I going? 

Chelsea: Uh, the day that Facebook was down? You were thinking about money, or… ?

Katie: Oh, okay. Yeah. Thank you. Great work. Can’t record this late! [laughter] So, that day everyone was talking about how Zuckerberg lost like tons of money. Like I think someone on Twitter (take it for what you will) said he lost like $2 billion. And everyone on Twitter was like, “See? Money’s fake!” Like we have no concept of what…

Chelsea: I think there was one tweet that I saw, it was like $70,000 a second.

Katie: Yeah, but that kind of confirmed in my head that money is made up.

Chelsea: Yes. Money is not real.

Katie: Where is it? Like, where did it go? Now whose money is it? 

Chelsea: It’s kind of fake. It kinda doesn’t matter.

Katie: See what I mean? Is it just because the stock dropped so much? 

Chelsea: Uhm, no…

Katie: Or was Facebook actually pooping money?

Chelsea: Well, yes, yes. 

Katie: Because they locked themselves out of their own business?

Chelsea: They sure did. They…

Katie: You know what, for that, they should lose some money. 

Chelsea: I agree. [laughter] Um, 

Katie: We say, as we pay Facebook to promote our ads…

Chelsea: Facebook mostly, I don’t think it was a stock price drop that people were saying was causing it. 

Katie: Oh.

Chelsea: It was… I’m pretty sure it was the loss of ad revenue because Facebook just makes all of its money…

Katie: Gotcha.

Chelsea: By serving up little things for people to buy. 

Katie: Like us.

Chelsea: And when it can’t do that for like six hours [00:06:00] because they locked their own engineers out of the buildings…

Katie: God, it’s just so beautiful.

Chelsea: Uh, yeah.

Katie: Okay. Well, anyways, but along with what you’re talking about, the federal, given budget here, I’m just like, is money real? Like what?

Chelsea: No, I don’t…

Katie: Where do we draw the line? 

Chelsea: Personally, I do not think money is real. I mean, that sounds very silly because money does have real, tangible impacts on our…

Katie: And it physically exists…

Chelsea: … on our lives and yes, some of, sometimes it does physically exist. Sometimes it doesn’t. Does your bank account, the dollars in your bank account? Do those physically exist? Who knows? Who  knows.

Katie: You know, I thought for a long time that somewhere, my money really sat. 

Chelsea: Oh, just like a pile of dollar bills.

Katie: I thought I had like my own box or something and that, it just…

Chelsea: A box o’ dollars. That’s when you get a bank account, you, you rent a physical space that has dollars in it. 

Katie: I know when I was younger, I was definitely like, yeah, let’s just go get my money out. And it was just my money that was being kept in this very secure area. It never occurred to me that I just like got shoved in with everybody else’s money. And my money is just a number on paper. 

Chelsea: That’s cute. I liked, I’m going to think about my bank account that way from now on.

Katie: It makes Chase a lot more approachable. It gives them a friendly face. It makes me feel like they care.

Chelsea: They’re just like holding onto your dollars. It makes you feel what?

Katie: It makes me feel like they care.

Chelsea: Oh, they care, yeah. Mhh-hmm.

Katie: Well, and as soon as I got a job teaching, I knew that couldn’t be true because there’s not enough money for them to care about what I got.

Chelsea: Listen, I thought you all cared. I thought you cared!

Katie: Then they spit out my ATM receipt and they cough on it. 

Chelsea: Yeah.

Katie: And [00:07:30] that’s the only proof that I have money.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Katie: So not sure how much of that’s going to be kept, but.

Chelsea: Oh, we’re keeping it all.

Katie: We went through it.

Chelsea: We’re just keeping it all. 

Katie: Carry on.

Chelsea: Um, okay. So anyway, back to the… this breakdown. So we did talk about it, but the breakdown is about 48% of the public school budgets come from state resources, and that includes, you know, income, sales tax, and fees and other stuff. And then 44% is contributed locally, primarily through property taxes of homeowners in the area. 

Katie: Oof.

Chelsea: Yeah. That last 8%? That’s the… that’s the federal part. Uh…

Katie: [laughter] It’s like…

Chelsea: Which, I just… it really does blow my mind. I don’t know why.

Katie: It’s just enough to get credit. 

Chelsea: I don’t know why I… I… I don’t know why I expected better…

Katie: Why? 

Chelsea: … of ‘Merica, But I did, I think. So of that 8%, a big part of it is distributed directly to local schools. 

Katie: You said the big part of the 8%. [laughter]

Chelsea: A big part. A large majority…

Katie: 92% of that 8% goes to Title I. 

Chelsea: Of that tiny amount. It really does. It’s…  It’s a lot of it’s uh, distributed directly to the schools. And then, well, so the federal government does not have authority to set unfunded mandates for local schools, which means schools and districts can always refuse federal money.

Katie: Uh huh. 

Chelsea: It’s basically is like, if there are strings attached to this money, they can choose not to accept it.

Katie: And they don’t wanna do the strings? Yeah.

Chelsea: So that… that’s possible, but I mean, often times they will take the money that they can get, but they don’t have to. But the programs that get funded by those federal dollars [00:09:00] include, like you just mentioned Title I— that’s geared towards students from low-income families— provides money to local districts to improve academic performance of those students; English language acquisition; uh, Reading First, which is, I think it’s kind of like a head-start reading, kind of type thing; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which is… we mentioned that in our, uh, assistive technology episode just recently…

Katie: I mean, that’s where the money should be going in my head. Like, I’m. you know.

Chelsea: Mhh-hmm. Well, we talked about how some of those technologies can be pricey, so.

Katie: Yeah, so, in my head I’m like good. Let’s maybe trhrow like 10% next time, okay?

Chelsea: Let’s bump it up 2%. Okay. 

Katie: You know how long that would take Congress to approve? My teaching career would be over. 

Chelsea: And then the last bit goes to improving teacher quality— grants to improve teacher quality. So, you know, training, professional development, stuff like that. 

Katie: I like that.

Chelsea: Yeah.

Katie: That’s good. That stuff’s expensive!

Chelsea: It is.

Katie: It’s really expensive. It’s expensive to be a teacher, like, to keep your license. It’s expensive. 

Chelsea: If you could imagine… if they just spent 9% instead of eight. I mean, well, again, that’s just like the slice of the pie. So what we really need is for the whole pie to get bigger for… so we don’t just want to increase the federal government’s percent, we want to actually just… increase the whole thing. But anyway.

Katie: We just wanna increase the payout basically to actual…

Chelsea: Yeah. Okay. Yeah. So why don’t you talk a little bit about, uh, as we tend to, we zero-in on Ohio, because it’s very familiar to us. And there’s… so you have some notes here about. [00:10:30] the way that it has worked, and how funding ties to school performance and other things like that.And then I also have some kind of very recent updates just to add on to the end of that, but I wanted to throw these notes in here about how it works in Ohio because it is reflective of the way national conversations around school funding are going. So the thing we’ll, we’ll talk about it, but it’s house bill one 10 that was just recently passed: the changes that are made by that, those are the kinds of changes That’s school districts across the country are trying to confront and deal with and figure out how to legislate in their own way. So, without further ado, why don’t you jump in.

Katie: Sure. So this is about public schools, obviously. So that’s like the only focus we really have here. But basically, public school districts in Ohio are financed with a combination of federal state and local funds, like we just talked about. Um, at the state level school districts receive funding from ODE, which is our Overlord Department of Education.

Chelsea: [laughter] Overlord Department of Education? That’s what the acronym stands for?

Katie: Yes, the overlord. And then also, that’s like their general revenue funds, and then the Ohio lottery profits pay into the education system… 

Chelsea:  Ah, yes, yes, yes. 

Katie: … which we can’t forget. It’s very important. 

Chelsea: Uh, yeah. Yeah. 

Katie: Which, you know, maybe I should buy more lottery tickets. 

Chelsea: [laughter from both] I’m not sure that’s a good investment…

Katie: Let me buy my way out of this. Um.

Chelsea: I’m not sure.

Katie: I’m giving back. 

Chelsea: You’re just making that pie bigger. [laughter]

Katie: Okay. So, at the local level…

Chelsea: And you have a chance to get rich. 

Katie: Okay. Oh, when you say it like that! At the local level, though, school districts receive funding from locally, uh, levied property taxes. And then school [00:12:00] districts can also receive funding from income taxes, approved by voters. And these levies that occur, I’m speaking about my experience growing up, where I grew up, and also working in the district that I work at… these levies are very, very hard to pass. I don’t know if it’s just our area of Ohio that is this way, but, it is always an uphill battle to pass levies is what I will say. Most levies. Most levies are very hard to pass.

Chelsea: I don’t actually… we probably should have looked up something about that. But I was going to say, I remember it… So the district where you teach, that’s where I went to school growing up, but I remember growing up that it was easier to pass levies. And I think that it’s really interesting.

Katie: I think it comes and goes. 

Chelsea: Yeah. Well, I think it has a lot to do with the content of the levy and what is being funded.

Katie: The politics at play.

Chelsea: There’s a lot of… There are a lot of politics involved in these local… like, local politics can get dirty and nasty and weird quickly. 

Katie: The district that I grew up in, we failed a big levy so many times that when I was in middle school, we had pay-to-play for athletics and everything. By the time I was in high school, we had recuperated it, so we were no longer still pay-to-play. But, even still, that school district is unable to pass levies. So they basically were able… I think it was an operating levy that they finally passed, but I could be wrong about that. But they did get it passed. They got (kind of) the funding, and then now the levy that they’re trying to pass is for the building of a new school, and it has failed.

Chelsea: So those are the… [00:13:30] That’s what I was about to say, is that I would… I think that those ones that I remember from when I was younger, those were, I’m pretty sure just pretty standard operating levies.

Katie: Operating levies.

Chelsea: And those are much easier, it’s just like… “Hey, If you want your kids to have a good education…”

Katie: “Hey, you like your teachers?”

Chelsea: “…go ahead and pass the levy so your teachers can get paid.” And, but these other ones that become more difficult, like you just mentioned, often new construction attached to them or a new land acquisition or, big ticket items that… Or, you know, tearing down a school and building a new one? Those are things that are much more difficult to convince people that they should foot the bill for. So it, it, uh…

Katie: It’s very difficult, especially in areas… (sorry, not to keep going on this but…)

Chelsea: No, no, no, that’s ok.

Katie: … where you grew up and where I grew up, it’s a very rural area. So that makes the land issues even more complicated. It’s that we’re talking about families who own large portions of acreage.

Chelsea: Yes, it could have… levies could have an outsized impact on certain members of certain communities. And like, like you’re saying, especially rural communities, where you get single landowners who have masses of land…

Katie: Very difficult.

Chelsea: … you can imagine property taxes impact them very much differently from how it might impact you or me. 

Katie: Especially when we know that, like, generally speaking, farmers are operating at a loss. Uh, most of them are, I should say, not all of them, but it’s that it’s becoming harder and harder, right, to make your living as just a farmer. So, that especially I see at [00:15:00] play a lot. So, anyways, the amount of state funds that a district receives is just based on this formula and the formula takes into account the student enrollment and the property wealth of the district. 

Chelsea: This is the one, by the way, the formula that you’re talking about here, that we used to use— this is one that’s been held to be unconstitutional several times through Ohio… I mean, I don’t know if it’s the formula itself or the way that it’s carried out, but whatever it is we’ve been found as a state, uh, we’ve been sued several times in the last couple of decades about our funding distribution…

Katie: How dare we? 

Chelsea: And the fact that it is… the fact that it is, doesn’t equitably serve students. We actually have… it’s kind of similar to that case, I think, in Oregon, it was, that we talked about that one episode where it was just like, is this a fair way to serve students? And the answer also in Ohio has been no.

Katie: Nope. 

Chelsea: So anyway, pick it back up. 

Katie: So all of these funds, along with the profits from the lottery, go to fund Ohio’s 612 public school districts, the 49 joint vocational school districts, the 319 public community schools, and then seven STEM schools on top of that. So not only are they funding all of that, but they’re also taking care of the Ohio Department of Education, and that includes the funding for early childhood ed, the preschool special education assessments, and the report card that we refuse to kill. 

Chelsea: State report card, that supposedly…

Katie: Let’s keep funding that!

Chelsea: It’s a…

Katie: You know what’s a great indicator of a school?

Chelsea: It’s a letter grade for your school district’s supposed performance in terms of the academic achievement [00:16:30] of students. 

Katie: Yeah. Okay. House Bill 110. Take it away, Chelsea. 

Chelsea: Oh yeah. Okay. So this was amending the formula that you were just talking about, but there’s a new funding model now for public schools in Ohio. And it was a pretty big issue around the time of reconciling the budget. So the state budget for this year is when everybody came together and kind of hashed this all out. But basically, there’s been a push for quite a while in Ohio to find a new school funding formula. And they agreed to implement what is called the Cupp-Patterson model for the next biennium— so next two-year budget cycle—  It’s this model, apparently (I’m not super familiar with it) but it sounds kind of interesting. It creates a base cost model that relies primarily on statewide employee compensation data and fixed staff to student ratios. These calculations determine the district, charter, and STEM schools’ base per pupil amounts, which drive the bulk of their state funding. It’s relative to the current base amount of $6,020 per student. The average base under the new formula, if fully implemented, rises to about $7,200 per student. The higher base amount explains the new formula’s overall price tag of about $2 billion in additional state spending. So they’re going to phase in this increase, um, over a couple of years, and they also have done this thing where they’re like, well, if you get tired of phasing in the increase, you don’t have to keep phasing it in. So I’m not exactly sure how or why this legislation is really even binding because you could just modify the formula whenever you feel like it. Like they’ve built it into the law that [00:18:00] they can just change their minds later, if they want to, which is very interesting. I suppose you probably need to do that in the case some catastrophic economic event… You know, if there’s another pandemic or something…

Katie: Oh, I haven’t heard of that…

Chelsea: Some big budget shortfall, but you know, who knows? I just thought that was an interesting point.

Katie: Yeah that is.

Chelsea: There’s… Included in this new formula is an equalizing mechanism that adjusts each district’s base amount to account for its property wealth and resident income, akin to the current funding formula. This is done to ensure that higher poverty districts receive more state aid than those that can raise more through local taxes. So there’s always been this imbalance because of what we were just talking about— those levies and the amount of the very high percentage of funding for school just because it comes from local sources. If you can wrap your head around the issues here, a lot of them come from the fact that wealthy districts can raise a lot more money in those kinds of levy situations, than, you know, higher poverty areas. 

Katie: Yeah, and because their houses are worth more.

Chelsea: Yeah. Property taxes, uh…

Katie: Taxes that do come in are a lot higher. 

Chelsea: Yep, when we’re talking about having a slice of property tax is being dedicated to school funding, if you have way higher value homes… you can see… you can see where this is going. So, part of this new model is to try to address some of the imbalances that come from that kind of funding model. The new model retains various categorical funding streams that provide districts with extra aid-based pupil characteristics like being an English language learner or a student with a [00:19:30] disability, but it does eliminate a few smaller components and those are like performance bonuses in K-3 literacy funding— likely an effort to shift some money to pay for an increased base. So basically we’re just moving some things around from special programs and trying to… trying to make a more attractive and equitable model for everyone. It directly funds public, charter, and STEM schools, private schools, scholarships, and inter-district open enrollment students rather than through deductions from those districts’ state funding, which I thought was pretty interesting.

Katie: Mhh-hmm. 

Chelsea: It’s supposed to alleviate political tensions, uh, that come with funding…

Katie: I welcome that.

Chelsea: … these alternative paths, you know, um, eliminate distortions in the formula when choice students were included in their home districts’ student counts. So like open-enrolled students get counted, in terms, you know, they technically live in their home districts. And then where does the funding go because they live there and property taxes determine money, but they don’t really go there. So… 

Katie: Yeah, that’s, uh, that’s one we deal with a lot because our open-enrolled numbers are very high.

Chelsea: Yeah. So I would say that there are some criticisms of this new funding model, for sure. I don’t want to get too much more in the weeds about this, but it does… it does attempt to address some of what has historically been an unconstitutional and pretty unfair funding model for, for students in Ohio. So, you also had some notes in here about, Colorado, which is another…

Katie: Mhh-hmm. 

Chelsea: [00:21:00] they’re kind of like a… a test kitchen for educational policy in Colorado. I don’t know why that is, but there are historically kind of… I don’t know. I just remember in grad school reading a lot about cases in Colorado and yeah, Colorado, Tennessee, some states don’t… and I dunno…

Katie: Lots of Texas stuff for some reason.

Chelsea: Texas, well it’s just so big, I mean, it’s hard not to pay attention to what’s going on there, but yeah. Why don’t you tell us what’s going on in, uh, what Colorado is trying to do.

Katie: Yeah, so, each state, just like Ohio, obviously, has its own formula for how they fund schools. Um, and so, like we mentioned, in most states, local property tax is a majority of that funding. So, Great Education Colorado reports on its website that due to the falling property tax revenues in Colorado in recent years, they’ve had to make up some of that difference through additional state funding, but because the recession has led to smaller state budgets as well, it’s left school districts, right, in Colorado without enough money, basically, to go around, like there isn’t enough to support it. 

Chelsea: Mhh-hmm.

Katie: And so basically what’s happening is that states like Colorado are taking advantage of the economic uptick to refund— not refund it— but to, you know what I mean, build back what they need to be putting out in the schools basically, because they’d been losing it, but it’s a really, really slow process. Um, so, since schools have to provide the basics like heat, electricity, and transportation, even though they’ve been dealing with all of these budget cuts, that means (like in most schools) we see it happen in the classroom. And so, for like the Coloradan teachers, they’re having [00:22:30] fewer programs for students, larger class sizes, and a whole bunch of other problems that come from this funding. And I think it’s really interesting because when you think about… Colorado is like one of the states that everybody moves to, it feels like, so I’m, I’m very… I would like to read more about how exactly this funding works, because …

Chelsea: I’m curious to hear You say that they, uh, you have found that their property values are decreasing.

Katie: I know, and that’s why I was shocked as well. So, I will do some more research on that, but basically, the long and short of it is that other states are facing the exact same problems that we are. And that it’s not unique. 

Chelsea: I would definitely say that part of Ohio’s change is definitely the timing of it; it is corresponding with what people are saying, it’s like you were just talking about, a temporary uptick in the economy? They’re like, “Oh, we’ve got to recover all these funds!” School districts everywhere are scrambling. 

Katie: But, if you think about it, I mean, it also does sort of make sense because Colorado is an expensive state. Everything there is expensive. Land is expensive, thing… like it’s just… you know. And I mean…

Chelsea: [laughter] Land is expensive. Things are expensive. Things in general!

Katie: Buying things in Colorado is expensive.

Chelsea: Being. Breathing. 

Katie: But, when you get there, it’s expensive. But, you know what I mean, though? Ohio isn’t the top of the charts, especially in the area that we live, as far as, like, price, right, per acreage?

Chelsea: Property values? Yeah, no.

Katie: Like we’re not… And I can think of communities in Ohio that are probably close to some of the Denver suburbs, but [00:24:00] generally speaking are up… like the highs and lows are much different here, I guess. Do you know what I’m trying to say? Like, I feel like the cost of living there is just so much more

Chelsea: Yes, the cost of living is much higher.

Katie: So the homes that are like what I would live in there would be twice as much, so it’s just…

Chelsea: I was going to say, is that probably not true across the whole state— where my sister lives outside of Denver, and it’s like… she… it’s kind of funny. ‘Cause my parents would sort of groan and roll their eyes because she was living outside of Denver and I was living outside of Annapolis, Maryland. And those are two of the most expensive places, cost-of-living-wise, in the country to live. 

Katie: Yeah, good job, both of you. [tut-tut sounds]

Chelsea: Um, Yeah. So we both have lived in these places where the school districts are pretty well-funded and taken care of, um, but like you’re saying, it’s just… Especially in, in school districts, budgets are always incredibly, incredibly tight. And so, if there is a temporary blip in the economy due to something like a pandemic or a housing crisis or whatever, it is… those temporary blips, um, those can affect, uh, public schools much more acutely than other sectors of the economy.

Katie: Yeah, and I like, I’m thinking of like a Boulder, right? Like, one of the, I mean… just some of these communities are just astonishing. But it also makes you wonder if, like, maybe that budget wasn’t as friendly as it should’ve been to begin with. Like, I think that’s what we’re seeing, right? And not like, you know. You and I have had a lot of [00:25:30] conversations, like how do you prepare the economy for another COVID pandemic? I don’t know, like, I feel like following that conversation has been very difficult because it’s like, you’re faced with mom and pop places closing because they weren’t planning for something like this. So at the same time, are we doing that to our schools? Are we not expecting… you know what I mean? Like, that’s where I am. 

Chelsea: I think that Colorado is in an earlier stage of doing the same reconciliation that Ohio just tried to do. Now, whether or not, it’s going to work… I think everywhere across the country, the problems are being magnified by the economic effects of the pandemic. But I think that everywhere— because of the percentage of funding that comes from local sources— everywhere in this country, public school-wise, um, is going to have to go through this same reckoning in terms of, “How do we provide equitable educations to students when our funding comes from local sources and those local sources have wildly different absolute amounts of money to contribute, right?

Katie: Yeah. Those were just some of my thoughts as I was reading about Colorado mostly. Um, so, not just an Ohio problem, for sure. It seems to be a national problem. I guess I can’t say that certainly, but generally speaking, it reads that way. 

Chelsea: No, for sure, it is, yeah. [laughter]

Katie: Um, so, a little bit about the options for school levies. Is that okay? So, as we mentioned, property tax is the big one, right? For the collection of taxes, charged on the value of the property. [00:27:00] And then each district must follow a process described in Ohio law in order for those taxes to be levied on the property within the district. Is this how it is used everywhere? This unit of value?

Chelsea: Mills? Yeah. Mills. 

Katie: Is this common? So this is like a … 

Chelsea: When you go to the ballot box next month…

Katie: It’s like so many mills of things?

Chelsea: Yeah, you will see if there are levies, and this is not just for school funding, obviously, but if there’s any levy…

Katie: Yeah, it’s like our fire department… 

Chelsea: Right. Right. So a levy for like emergency services or levy for the operating budget for a town hall or whatever it is, you will often see… Yeah. ‘Cause I remember having a conversation with my parents about this one of the first times I voted. There was a local measure— a levy— and I was just like, what’s a mill? 

Katie: What’s a mill? Yeah, it’s not very well explained. 

Chelsea: No, I mean… 

Katie: It’s just one tenth of a cent. 

Chelsea: It’s one of those things that they should tell you in high school. It’s just, you know, a thing that you’re going to need to know as an adult. But anyway, yeah, one tenth of a percent or one tenth of a cent in cash. 

Katie: And then the millage is the factor that’s just applied to the assessed value basically to produce that tax revenue. So they look at your home, all of these things, this magic math that occurs, and then they tax us.

Chelsea: Yeah, they’re trying… You try to figure out how many mills the levy has…

Katie: So anytime we’re like sent a flier, it’s like, it’ll be about this much for this much of a house or whatever. So they give you like…

Chelsea: Yeah, they try to put this language in easier to understand terms…

Katie: Yeah. So they’re like each day it’s like a penny or whatever. 

Chelsea: It’s, like, “If you just stopped buying a cup of coffee one time a month!” or whatever, that’s how much. But they don’t say it like [00:28:30] that on the ballot, they say it… they do it in terms of millage. Mills. 

Katie: So then when you get to the ballot and you’re like, oh, I think I want to support this, but that sounds like a lot of money. Can I afford this? 

Chelsea: Yeah, that’s the other thing that that language does…

Katie: That’s what that language does to me. That’s what I think is the bad precedent.

Chelsea: Yeah, there’s a bit of a voter… informing voters and having informed, you know, voting… informed citizenry going on here that I think probably we should either make sure that we teach people what that means or update the language that we use on ballot initiatives. Because it’s not clear and people get confused and they’re like, wait, that either sounds like a really tiny amount of money or a really huge amount of money, and I have no idea… 

Katie: Yeah, they can’t tell. It’s either or. It is either nothing or it is everything and that’s fine. We included the school levies at the end of this, because this is where schools end up when the funding that’s being provided to them isn’t enough. So in the district that Chelsea grew up in, the one that I work in, the one that I grew up in, like, we are every so many years going back through this cycle of “it’s time for an operating levy” or whatever. So there are operating expenses. There are general ongoing improvements. There are recreational purposes, specific permanent improvements or classes of improvements. And these are all reasons for levies basically. So what this means is that you could build community centers, cultural centers, school safety and security things, purchase of educational technology, the debt service for bonds issued for school construction. So like, um, a couple of the communities that we’re familiar with around here— that’s what they’re going through is trying to build new [00:30:00] schools and, um, not being able to get that passed at the millage that (basically) for the amount that they want. And so, the one specific school district that I’m thinking of, they’ve gone a few times back to the ballot at different millages, basically saying, “Okay, we don’t need to do all of these projects, we just need to focus on this.”

Chelsea: Yeah. It’s obviously easier to pass on a tax burden to people living in a district when you ease that tax burden somewhat. 

Katie: Yes. So a lot of times you might see a school levy reappear if you’re voting and it might be for hopefully (they normally go at least) for a smaller amount and it’s because maybe they have changed the plan for the school or have changed other plans that we’re going to use for it. But I would say normally if you’re a voting on a levy for a school it’s usually operating or, um, new construction. Like generally speaking, those are the two most common that I’ve seen at least.

Chelsea: I guess the one thing then— just a passing thought about school levies. I used to be of the mindset of “just vote yes on every single school levy,” because I would have said at that time, like we just have to fund education and we have to do a better job of funding education. But since that time, I’ve realized that the people who are in charge of putting together the levies and the legislation and the proposals for funding and spending in districts are not always the people who I would trust to have the best interest of students at heart. So, [00:31:30] unfortunately, there’s now a kind of tension where I’m like, “I really want to support this school district. I want to do what’s best for these kids, but I don’t think this levy is doing it.”

Katie: I think that that’s what a lot of schools face, regardless of thinking of the school that I grew up in. That’s exactly how it was trying to pass levies for us. Like, we got a new high school built when I was young. And then couldn’t get, you know… they made you pay-to-play for sports and for a band and stuff like that in high school. So there’s like, there’s no…

Chelsea: Yeah, you also have added a couple of notes: people have to do class fundraisers to put on proms or, like, to host graduations, to, you know, go to PD…

Katie: Yeah. Like these are all the things that aren’t covered… So like, levies are great to help support these things, but even still, even by passing or not passing a levy, there are still things that fall on teachers and students to try to make ends meet for these normal experiences. But yeah, I mean, gosh, levies are just so… it’s so slippery.

Chelsea: I mean, I really just wanna, I, I suppose I’m issuing a challenge to superintendents everywhere. But if you’re in charge of a school district and you’re a superintendent and you feel like you don’t have support for a levy, 

it could be the case that your voters are all just deranged and they don’t see the beauty of your plan, but it’s probably something more along the lines of: people do want to support their kids’ learning environments and they want to support their teachers and they want to do all of that, but they don’t agree with you that the way you’re attempting to spend money is the way to best educate kids.

Katie: [00:33:00] Well, and also a lot of times, I mean, the school that I grew up in is currently unable to pass this levy to build the new school that they need. And one of the issues that the community is dealing with is that there was a focus to build an athletic field that didn’t seem to be a top priority and now they want to put out a levy to increase the taxes on… you know what I mean? And so, these are the types of things that make it very hard for schools to pass levies. 

Chelsea: So, they built something that the district generally doesn’t approve of too much in retrospect?

Katie: The community generally does not support it.

Chelsea: I see.

Katie: But now, what building this one thing has done is created a big divide. And now, because of… even though this thing is probably paid off by now, people are still like, well, you built that thing. 

Chelsea: So, you built this thing that I didn’t want to have built and now I’m never going to trust you with my money?

Katie: Or it didn’t seem necessary, or it was fine. There’s, you know, insert whatever thing you would like to support it with, but that’s what a lot of schools are dealing with. Right? And so then you have leadership changes. You might have a rollover of an entire new administration. They’re fighting the battles that the people who’ve retired since have… you know what I mean? So it’s very, very sticky. 

Chelsea: The local politics of these things get really messy.

Katie: So, what this leaves for schools? Pretty much everything, right? So we have to raise money for extra-curriculars, especially for music groups. I was a softball coach for a while and we had to do some things to try to make sure we could cover… now there are like [00:34:30] athletic boosters in the event… in like the case of my school, but it’s still not enough to cover every single thing that we need.

Chelsea: Boosters, by the way— if you don’t have a kid in school or if you don’t remember, or if you weren’t participating in groups in high school… Booster groups are usually parent volunteer groups organized around raising money for supporting these programs. 

Katie: And then like I’m in charge of the senior class at the high school I teach at. So we help orchestrate graduation and the gift and all of those things. We usually have to do a fundraiser to try to make some money for the gift or a junior prom requires fundraising.

Chelsea: This is a gift that outgoing seniors leave to their school?

Katie: Yeah. And that’s why, referencing back to a previous episode, that’s why things like DonorsChoose and Amazon lists for classrooms exist because we do not have the funding.

Chelsea: Yep, this is where Clear the List comes from.

Katie: Right now I’m working with a couple of the new young teachers at my school about writing, basically, kind of a baby grant within our district to try to get some new books like, but we, we have to search for these things. And, you know what mean? Like, we have to learn how to write, not like true grants grants, but you know…

Chelsea: Teachers have to wear many hats and one of them is knowing how to write grant applications. Can you imagine? 

Katie: And then also just raising money to attend professional development. I’ve seen that happen a lot. Especially when, like at my district, we don’t get any allocated funds to do that. So, you will see from time to time that there’s a group of teachers who want to do this one specific type of training and they’ll try to fundraise for that. So, what does that mean? Stop defunding education.

Chelsea: Maybe…

Katie: … we should stop defunding education?

Chelsea: …we should stop defunding [00:36:00] education?

Katie: Might as well try. 

Chelsea: Maybe!

Katie: But also, that compels me to say: find ways to support locally when you can. And also if you are the person who is listening to this saying, “I have some concerns with the district that I live in. That is preventing me from voting yes for them.” I would urge you to get to the bottom of that. 

Chelsea: Write a letter. 

Katie: Just do something. I mean, just do something. Like being mad at a district and kids that probably aren’t really the kids you’re mad at, or whoever it is you’re mad at. You know, but also on the other side, for people who do own all of these things that get taxed, I get it too. You know? So maybe the federal government just coughs up 9%.

Chelsea: Maybe.

Katie: 8.5. 

Chelsea: Maybe just add a few more dollars on there.

Katie: Whew. I got worked up about this one.

Chelsea: Yeah. You’re a little worked up.

Katie: Do you want to do last episode’s question? 

Chelsea: I would love to do that.

Katie: ‘Cause I really want to do this episode’s question ‘cause I might squeal.

Chelsea: I know, you’re very excited about this one. This one has pictures that we’re going to have to put on the website. 

Katie: I’m going to have to find some I’m allowed to…

Chelsea: You’re going to have to post those.

Katie: They’re so cute. Okay, go ahead. 

Chelsea: Okay. So, last episode’s Fill in the Blank. Anne Sullivan, known most famously as being Helen Keller’s teacher, is a notable alumna of this school located in Watertown, Massachusetts. The school was originally called the New England Asylum for the Blind. What is this famous school for the blind’s name now? And that’s Perkins School for the Blind. Perkins. 

Katie: Yeah, they still exist. Still in operation. Yeah. Okay. Is it my turn?

Chelsea: It’s the oldest school for the blind in the country, right? Didn’t you say that? 

Katie: Yeah. It changed its name, but yes. 

Chelsea: Yup. Alright. This episode’s Fill in the Blank? [00:37:30] 

Katie: I am so excited. Okay, so, are you ready?

Chelsea: I’m ready. 

Katie: A famous bear was seen over the weekend. So, uh, let’s just call it, for listeners of the future, early-ish October, 2021. Okay. Um, so this famous bear scene over the weekend in Grand Teton National Park with her four bear cubs. This famous bear was born in 1996 and is far outliving the normal age of a grizzly, coming in at 25 years young this year. She weighs over 400 pounds. And when she stands on her hind legs is more than seven feet tall. She has raised more than 16 cubs and grand-cubs, but has lost half of them to human errors, like getting hit by cars. She has been seen by visitors to Grand Teton teaching her cubs how to hunt, how to look both ways when crossing the street, and how to avoid human interactions, even though historically, she has lived very close to the roads because she’s trying to avoid the male grizzlies.

Chelsea: Oh, interesting. 

Katie: She has attempted to attack two different humans for getting too close to her young, but she never killed them. So she’s escaped euthanasia, which also contributes to her unusually old age. Because by the time they’ve lived this long, they’ve usually attempted to kill somebody or have killed somebody. So…

Chelsea: Yeah, particularly in high-volume national parks.

Katie: So, I also want to mention, grizzlies are protected, so don’t get mad, okay? You can’t make her a rug.

Chelsea: [laughter]

Katie: But the question is, now that I’ve given this grizzly bear the most fascinating bio of her life, [00:39:00] what is her name? Who is that bear? Basically, she has a name. She has a Facebook page. She has a whole following, and I will, if I can get any of these pictures and I’m allowed to use them, I will include one eventually. Because she is a staple of the Grand Tetons. And, especially… 

Chelsea: We’ll at least link to whomever took these photos…

Katie: She has, um… she’s been seen for, I mean, all of these years. Usually… rarely with one, usually with two or three, and then yes. And this, uh, I think it was last year, she had four, and somebody had actually said that they had killed her and they were, like, gloating about it. And, like, the greater Grand Teton area got super ticked and cause they… she’s like their pet, basically, of the Grand Tetons. And so they were searching and searching for her and they were very concerned that she had… but she came out of hibernation late. [laughter]

Chelsea: Oh.

Katie: She was just taking her time.

Chelsea: She was taking an extra long nap. 

Katie: If you’ve got four cubs, you’re going to need it. So, my long story short, who is that famous grizzly from Grand Teton?

Chelsea: That’s pretty cute. 

Katie: Oh my gosh, they’re so fuzzy.

Chelsea: Yeah. Don’t pet them, though.

Katie: Yeah, we didn’t get to see any bears there. It was too hot.

Chelsea: Not this time. We saw bears in Yellowstone, uh, the previous summer. 

Katie: Yeah, but not grizzlies. I thought there were black bears. 

Chelsea: I think you’re right. They were black bears.

Katie: We didn’t see any of these guys. These things are 400 pounds and seven feet tall. Ain’t no way I’m going near her. Okay. Do you want to do what you learned? [00:40:30] 

Chelsea: Oh yeah. 

Katie: We’ve still got one more segment. 

Chelsea: One more. 

Katie: And then I’m going to go bake cookies. 

Chelsea: That sounds delicious. I can’t wait for that. Okay. What I learned, yes. I’ve been getting so crafty recently. I’ve been doing a lot of crafts because I’ve been trying to get ready for a couple of different Halloween-related costuming things. Yeah. So, what I learned this week was how to work with this thing… this stuff called Worbla, which is basically heat-moldable crafting plastic. It comes in his big roll and it just kind of feels like a big roll of like, I don’t know… It’s just like flat plastic basically, but it comes all rolled up and you get a heat gun and you just sort of pass the heat gun over it, a bit. And it gets really… it’s kinda like sticky and pliable and then you mold it into whatever shape you want and then pray that it stays where you tried to put it. And, uh, at the end, it will re-harden into whatever shape you’ve made.

Katie: I need to see this happen in real-time. I’m interested in it.

Chelsea: It’s interesting. It’s really expensive stuff. So that’s primarily the reason that I have not played with it before now, because it’s just… it’s a super expensive hobby, but people who do, you know, big time, like cosplay-type stuff, like people who make that kind of stuff for a living, they will use Worbla. I’ve watched people craft with it and videos and tutorials and stuff, and I’ve [00:42:00] always been interested to try. 

Katie: So, what part was that? The face shield?

Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah. I was making… Kate, for her costume. I was… it requires this helmet that has a face shield. And I got her a motorcycle helmet that’s, you know, the right shape sorta, but it doesn’t have the face shield that this helmet is supposed to have. So I made a face shield out of Worbla and I painted it, and it was a lot of fun. I did some sewing. I did some, clay bake… like moldable polymer clay baking, ‘cause I’m making Kate a dice box for our D&D campaigns. And that’s uh… I’m making it like the book from Hocus Pocus. So there’s a lot of Halloweeny, crafty, spooky season stuff going on. And so that’s what I learned. I learned how to use Worbla. Yeah. How about you?

Katie: I was listening to My Favorite Murder, which is my favorite podcast aside from obviously ours. And they did an episode… 

Chelsea: [laughter] Obviously ours. 

Katie: Obviously. They did an episode… pretty sure it was Georgia was talking about this guy. William Moulton Marston, are you familiar with him? 

Chelsea: No, I don’t think so.

Katie: Okay. So he’s a famous psychologist, and he actually created Wonder Woman and her Lasso of Truth!

Chelsea: A psychologist. So not a comic book writer, or is he also a comic book writer? 

Katie: Wait.

Chelsea: Oh, my bad…

Katie: Guess what William Moulton Marston is most well-known for creating? Don’t say Wonder Woman and her Lasso of Truth. 

Chelsea: Okay. [laughter]

Katie: That would be the obvious answer.

Chelsea: Then I will have no answer because…[00:43:30] 

Katie: He is most well-known for creating the systolic blood pressure test. Do you know what that led to?

Chelsea: The, uh… the lie detector?

Katie: The polygraph, yes. So his wife, um, Elizabeth Holloway Marston was an attorney and a psychologist, and the two of them worked together on creating basically what would become eventually the polygraph test, which is a bit of a nightmare, but.

Chelsea: That’s the Lasso of Truth!

Katie: That’s the Lasso of Truth. So, his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, was part of the inspiration for Wonder Woman, as well as their other partner, Olive Byrne. And so he gave Wonder Woman the Lasso of Truth as a way to reflect on the emotions that play, like… the emotions that work their way up as we’re telling the truth. So it’s kind of cool to think about though. Right? ‘Cause his whole thing was, well, their whole thing, I shouldn’t say his, the work that they did, right, was to create the polygraph essentially as a way to decide what kind of, um, reactions our body has to lying or to truth. And so, I know the polygraph isn’t great work. Like I understand that…

Chelsea: Yeah. It’s not admissible as evidence in court, but it is useful…

Katie: It’s interesting work to think about because I cannot stand lying. It makes me feel icky. 

Chelsea: You probably wouldn’t pass the polygraph if you were lying.

Katie: I would fail miserably. I would not even… they’d be like, “What’s your name?” And I’d be like, “Chelsea!”

Chelsea: You’d probably fail just trying to tell the truth.

Katie: I would. That’s what I mean. I was, yeah. So, those two. I mean, [00:45:00] he was mostly the one who created Wonder Woman, but she’s based off of his wife and their, partner, Olive. And, the Lasso of Truth is a little nod to the work that they did. But also just to, I mean, what’s more powerful than Wonder Woman when she can literally hug you with her lasso and you just spill it? Like, that’s a power that not a lot of them have. 

Chelsea: Interesting. 

Katie: So, isn’t that cool? I was like… as I was driving, I was like, I’m sorry, did they just say…? So then I had to go back and replay, like, 10 minutes of it. ‘Cause I was like, is this still the guy? 

Chelsea: Where did we, how did we get here? 

Katie: I was so confused. Cause I was like polygraph, polygraph… Wonder Woman? Yeah. So that’s what I learned. 

Chelsea: Interesting. So the Lasso of Truth is actually based on…

Katie: A psychologist, an attorney…

Chelsea: …based on the polygraph, the polygraph. The Lasso of Truth is kind of based on the polygraph. 

Katie: Is based on, yeah.

Chelsea: I would not have known that. 

Katie: It’s kind of cool. Makes Wonder Woman way cooler. She’s already top-notch, but. So that was kind of cool to learn. ‘Cause like I said, I was like, am I hearing this? Oh, that’s a good one. 

Chelsea: The more you know.

Katie: The more you know. 

Chelsea: The more you know. Alright. Anything else? Wrap up thoughts?

Katie: Our next episode we will be including when we will not be releasing episodes because holidays are coming. I believe Thanksgiving is supposed to be a release and it will not be. And then we will also be taking off (we will confirm dates) but usually the week of Christmas, if that is an episode week.

Chelsea: Just because it’s a little wild that time of year, we did this last year too. We just… we’re going to be taking off one [00:46:30] week for Thanksgiving and one week for Christmas, but we’ll tell you when that’s coming. 

Katie: I was just mostly warning that, um, that time’s coming. So I think we have one, two more episodes before Thanksgiving?

Chelsea: Something like that. 

Katie: Um, that’s it. Yep. So we’ll update. I think that’s all I have.

Chelsea: Time to go bake cookies?

Katie: I think I’m ready for cookies. Yeah.

Chelsea: Okay. Let’s go make some cookies. 

Katie: I… this was a fun one, I think. I’m curious to see what you keep.

Chelsea: Oh, I’m keeping all of it. Every single thing. I’m not going to edit a word out of this one.

Katie: Well, uhm, great. 

Chelsea: You should probably make some weird noises now, to play us out. 

Katie: [weird noises] Is it over?

Chelsea: Good job. It’s over. 

Katie: Bye!

Chelsea: Bye!

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