School Funding Debate Again the Center of State Operating Budget Battle

Few topics garner debate more in a state operating budget than how Ohio funds its K-12 schools. Ohio House Bill 166, Governor Mike Dewine’s state operating budget, and the response of legislators on the K-12 education funding prove the current operating budget will battle will be no different than past efforts.

Ohio funds its traditional public school districts through a mix of state funding and local property taxes, supports the over 100,000 students attending public schools through a baseline of state funding with the state funding following the student, and voucher scholarships for students attending private or religious schools. With the FY 20 & FY 21 State Budget deliberations now in full swing, Governor DeWine has focused his administrations attention on providing “wrap around” services to Ohio’s schools and not increasing the baseline funding for traditional K-12 schools. Instead, the Governor is proposing investing $550 million over the two-year state budget to support schools with non-traditional educational services including mental health counseling, mentoring, and after school programs, to help break down barriers to success and to let teachers and schools do what they do best, which is educating Ohio’s youth.

Additionally, two veteran lawmakers brought a new school funding proposal into the conversation. Representative Bob Cupp and Representative Patterson rolled out their plan to fund Ohio’s schools moving forward. After spending the past year and a half working with educators and stakeholders on the Fair School Funding Task force the representatives released details about their proposal. The task force has attempted to solve the long-known problem of a fair and equitable school funding formula that provides support to Ohio’s schools.

In response to a question from the media, Representative Cupp a former Ohio Supreme Court Justice said he believes the proposal meets the standard established by the Ohio Supreme Court in the DeRolph decision more than 20 years ago.

The FAIR School Funding Plan recommends the following:
Establishes a base cost for instruction. The plan recommends an average amount of that each school should be funded at from the state based on a breakdown of 60% property value and 40% income. The 60-40 breakdown will be used to calculate the state/local share. Additionally, the base funding will include funding for classroom instruction, instructional & student supports, school operations, and district leadership and accountability.
The FAIR plan is also recommending additional add on funding for each school based on children living in poverty. This provision is similar to the funding proposal Governor DeWine has made to provide $550 million in new funding for wrap around services.
Study and develop a plan to provide high-quality preschool for every four-year-old identified as living in poverty.
Update a study done in 2001 and 2006 dealing with Special Education to determine proper funding levels for special education. Additionally, have the state provide 100% funding for special education with a 10% set aside for catastrophic cases.
Offer additional support to schools for both Gifted and English Learners programs.
Provide Direct funding from the state for Community Schools and Vouchers. Currently, Ohio’s model is to use the school district of residence as a pass-through for funding Community Schools and Voucher programs.
Study ways to better fund and integrate Educational Service Centers. Also, implement an Interim funding increase for ESC’s to $26.50 per student in FY 20 and $27.00 per student in FY 21.
Career Technical Education, the plan recommends returning to base cost weights or multipliers as a preferred method of funding for these schools. Also, the plan recommends funding programs that promote K-12 interest in skills-based, non-college careers as well as creating a similar based funding method for Career Tech schools similar to the recommendation for traditional K-12.
The FAIR plan recommends the state funds technology to provide each student with access to a digital device. This additional cost would be factored into the base funding a per student basis annually.
Transportation is also recommended as an area that the state should increase funding. The FAIR plan makes a number of recommendations including increase funding and grants for bus replacement. The plan also makes a number of policy changes to decrease transportation cost i.e. allow 30-minute leeway in drop-off and pick-up times for non-traditional schools, eliminate mandates requiring service to non-traditional schools outside district boundaries, or when the serving district is not in session without reimbursement, eliminate the mile restriction, and allow local use of buses by other community organizations.

The FAIR school funding plan is wide reaching and alters the way Ohio funds K-12 education in the state moving forward. There are still many details of the proposal which are still being released, primarily the cost of the funding plan for traditional K-12 schools. Other details dealing with direct funding of community schools and vouchers are yet to be determined.

In the coming weeks, many of these questions will begin to be answered as the committee process in the Ohio House continues.

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