It’s time for Ohio to fix school funding

In the next few weeks, our State Senators and State Representatives will determine the future for Ohio schools with one crucial vote. For the first time in nearly three decades, the Ohio General Assembly has a plan to fairly (adequately and equitably) fund Ohio schools with the Fair School Funding Plan.

House Bill (HB) 110, the budget bill, includes the Fair School Funding Plan. The Fair School Funding Plan, as introduced in House Bill (HB) 1, bases state school funding on what students actually need to succeed. It is a plan that was developed over the last three years by a team of educational leaders. It treats all Ohio school districts and taxpayers fairly, based on capacity to pay. The Fair School Funding Plan, when fully phased in, will ensure that Ohio’s children will have the quality educational opportunities they all deserve.

Twenty-four years ago, DeRolph v. State of Ohio (1997) ruled that Ohio’s method for funding schools through the state’s school foundation program was unconstitutional. Since that time, legislators’ solution to satisfy the Ohio Supreme Court’s order has been to pass a series of biennial budgets containing politically expedient remedies that have not eliminated the over-reliance on local property tax or mitigated the discriminatory nature inherent in the series of “funding fixes” legislated over the last 24 years.

Now is the time for the state to fix the school funding system and adopt a constitutional funding plan. Ohio is in excellent financial shape with revenues running $1.5 billion (as of March 2021) beyond where we were one year ago in March 2020 just as the pandemic was hitting. State revenues are running three-quarters of a billion dollars over pre-pandemic estimates. Additionally, the legislature has maxed out the Rainy Day Fund at $2.7 billion—a fund that has not been touched during this pandemic. The state’s average $400 million annual contributions to this fund should be invested in Ohio’s children—our future leaders, economy, and workforce.

Every dollar invested in our local schools impacts our local economy and our future workforce. Once it is fully implemented, the Fair School Funding Plan will bring predictability and stability for Ohio schools, allowing districts to sustain and develop programming that prepares all students for college and career success. That means Ohio will continue to be a destination and a desirable place to raise a family, start businesses and be successful.

This plan is a “no-brainer.” Ohio has the funds to implement the well-vetted, bipartisan plan; but, now we are weeks ahead of the state budget deadline and the State Senate is wavering. Senators are considering un-vetted changes to the bill that could call into question its constitutionality and effectiveness at funding Ohio schools. What we value, we fund. And it’s time for Ohio to start investing in what matters most, Ohio’s children and our future.

I urge you to join me in reaching out to our local State Senators, Rob McColley, Teresa Gavarone, and Teresa Fedor, to share your support for the Fair School Funding Plan and investing in Ohio’s future.

Submitted by Joyce Kinsman, Swanton Local Schools treasurer