COLUMBUS -- A new state panel held its inaugural meeting Wednesday, with an eye toward doling out millions of dollars to schools to help them implement ideas for cutting costs and helping kids learn.
"I would ask all school districts across this state to bring us your reform," Gov. John Kasich said in opening comments to members of the Straight A Fund governing board. "Give our children a chance to realize their hopes and dreams. Whether you live in Lima or Mansfield of Youngstown, we're waiting. We're waiting for those to stand up and bring the reforms necessary so that our children can have a great future."
The program was created by lawmakers as part of the $62 billion biennial budget, signed into law by Kasich earlier this year.
A total of $250 million -- $100 million in the current fiscal year and $150 million in the next one -- was earmarked for grants for new technology or other projects aimed at improving student achievement, reducing costs and directing more state funding into classrooms.
The new governing board that is overseeing the process and that will make decisions on grant awards signed off Wednesday on the application process.
Kasich said the program could "lead to the greatest amount of innovation and change in our Ohio public schools."
According to information compiled on the Straight A website (education.ohio.gov/topics/straight-a-fund), applicants will be subject to "a rigorous screening process," with a focus on projects "that solve specific problems in our schools, can be quickly duplicated by others and are sustainable."
"This is not your typical grant program to pass out money and make people happy in the short term," Kasich said. "We are calling for institutional, fundamental change that can help us to have a better economy within our schools while at the same time advancing fundamental, basic education for our students."
The governor also touted other school reform efforts that are already under way, including the third grade reading guarantee, new A-F report cards for districts, plans being implemented in Cleveland and Columbus and increased emphasis on vocational programs.
"I think we're in a great position to really move forward," Kasich said. "We're never going to fix it all, it's not possible. But we can constantly work to improve keeping in mind the children who we've been called to serve."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.