Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on July 1 signed into law a school funding model that has been hailed as fair to all of the state’s 600-plus school districts.
Included in the new biennium budget, the Fair School Funding Plan (FSFP) will determine the amount of state assistance a school district gets based on a formula of 60 percent local property taxes and 40 percent household income, along with other factors. The plan also increases K-12 funding by $564 million.
However, state legislators will only commit to the plan for two years, rather than follow the House’s vote for a six-year deal.
The FSFP comes after decades during which state legislators failed to fashion what they and school administrators considered a fair and equitable distribution of state funds for all of Ohio’s school district’s, wealthy and struggling alike. In the 1997 case, DeRolph v. State, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the state’s school funding system unconstitutional, declaring, in part, insufficient funding.
District 81 State Representative Jim Hoops (R-Napoleon) said in the past state legislators approached school funding with a Band-Aid approach, “and now you have something that everybody agrees upon. It’s based on, if the school ends up getting more students they’re going to get more dollars from the state, whereas, right now, that’s not the case. A lot of work went into (the plan) over the last three years to put together something I feel people understand.”
The catch will be whether the next two or three future general assemblies decide to continue following the FSFP game plan.
“Each budget, it’s a new day, and you’re not held to – each general assembly has their own ideas,” Hoops said. “So that will be a key to this thing.”
Chris Lake, Swanton schools superintendent, said the FSFP will “create stability in the school funding process and allow for districts to make a more accurate projection of their financial health in their five year forecasts.”
But Lake expressed disappointment over elected officials pouring money into the private and charter school systems, saying they’re not held to acount.
“Our state legislature has a constitutional duty to provide for and fund a common public school system,” he said. “They have spent decades creating accountability systems for public schools in the misguided effort to ‘prove’ that public education does not do a good job. While at the same time they will blindly give money to private and charter schools and require no oversight as to how that money is spent.”
Lake said passage of the latest budget bill has elected officials “opening up the fire hose of cash to these schools that operate out of sight of the of the taxpaper. He said taxpayers should be concerned, regardless of where their children are schooled.
Second District State Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) said school funding has always been her priority, “and it’s one of the most important things we do.”
She was pleased with the bill’s passage, and hoped future general assemblies would see its value.
“I think it’s important that we continue looking at this, and making sure we do what we can, and to get our kids the best education possible. I think it’s a win all around.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.