Three of seven Fulton County school districts would each lose over $100,000 in state funding next fiscal year under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget, and get nothing more the following year.
Under Kasich’s plan, school districts that have lost five percent or more of their students since 2011 would face decreases of up to five percent in state financial support. The governor said he doesn’t want to fund students Ohio’s 610 public school systems have lost, which total about three percent.
The number of students lost in Fulton County school districts between fiscal years 2011-2016 include: Archbold, 49 or 3.7 percent; Evergreen, 89 or 7.2 percent; Fayette, 38 or 8 percent; Pettisville, 59 or 14.5 percent; Swanton, 17 or 1.2 percent; and Wauseon, 78 or 4 percent. Pike-Delta-York gained 24 students or 1.7 percent.
Locally, the proposal would mean the following cuts from current state funding and the resulting funding for the 2017-18 school year:
• Evergreen Local Schools, $114,930, down from $5,037, 299 to $4,922,369
• Fayette Local Schools, $106,535, down from $3,454,858 to $3,348,323
• Pettisville Local Schools, $112,239, down from $2,212,080 to $2,099,751
Under the proposal, those school districts would see no change for the 2018-19 school year.
The county’s other four school districts would record increases from this school year: Wauseon, up $75,276 from over $11.3 million; Archbold, up $377,817 from over $3.7 million; Pike-Delta-York, up $36,436 from over $7.1 million; and Swanton, up $74,099 from over $5.4 million.
In all, about 369 Ohio school districts – over half – would be impacted by Kasich’s proposed plan.
Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association, said he understands the concept of refusing to pay for students no longer attending. But he added that Kasich overlooks the fact that many school districts don’t have sufficient funds now to operate efficiently, and have lost capacity in low-wealth districts to raise cash locally.
“We’re going to approach this in trying to work with our legislators to see the need,” Asbury said. “You still have to keep the lights on, run the buses.
He said because developing the budget is a legislative process, “We have lots of opportunity to influence the thinking of legislators on both sides of the aisle. Education is a priority. I don’t always see that coming through in the budget.”
Pettisville schools have lost 59 students over the past five years, or 14.5 percent. Superintendent Steve Switzer said holding the same loss in funding in the second year of Kasich’s proposed budget would have the school district losing a total of nearly a quarter million dollars.
He said the cut in funds is the result of a decrease in the district’s residential enrollment which drives the state model.
“We’re not losing sleep yet over the budget. It has a lot of process to go through,” Switzer said.
Evergreen Local Schools Superintendent Jim Wyse said the proposed cuts would make it even more difficult to keep up with expenses. “We still have the same set of operating costs and people. I’m not sure we could reduce any further,” he said.
He’s also concerned with a percentage increase that would benefit charter schools, saying, “That’s our taxpayers’ money going out to other schools that don’t benefit our local students.”
Additionally, Wyse said, cuts to special education and career tech education are being made behind the scenes, two areas in which the state encourages districts to flourish.
“It’s very frustrating when we’re supposed to make all these changes to make pathways for students. Then why are they making all these cuts?” he said.
Fayette Local Schools Superintendent Erik Belcher did not return calls for comment.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.