Schooling funding overhaul reappears in closing state funds draft
The day after negotiations on the new two-year state budget ended, the Ohio House version of a revision of public school funding won.
The Draft Budget Conference Committee, made up of members from both houses of the Ohio Legislature, reverted to the Fair School Funding Plan after the Senate tried to create its own funding formula for Ohio’s K-12 public schools. They approved the committee report on Monday afternoon.
The budget passed both chambers of the legislative body on Monday evening with 32 to 1 votes in the Senate and 82 to 13 votes in the House of Representatives.
Members on both sides of the Senate and House of Representatives said the public school funding formula in the budget was a good compromise, with State Senator Vernon Sykes, D-Akron calling the plan’s inclusion “one of the most important things” for education in Ohio.
“This bill takes the shortcomings of our antiquated, band-based … public school district funding formula and replaces it with what is known as the Cupp-Patterson funding model, the Fair School Funding formula,” said State Representative Jamie Callender, R-Eintracht.
Callender co-sponsored the reintroduction of the funding formula as a standalone bill before it was added to the budget.
The original plan for the funding formula was a six-year phase-in program, but only two years will be funded in the new state budget. Senate President Matt Huffman said out-of-year spending was “still a significant problem,” but the main motivation for looking just two years into the future of education was the budget cycle.
“No matter what we do about predictability, all spending decisions under our constitution are two-year decisions,” Huffman said Monday.
The education budget becomes a largely state-funded model that weighs the wealth of a school district against the state’s share in deciding the local portion to be paid by the district.
The budget maintains direct state funding for public schools, but removes elements of the House version that created a school funding oversight commission, as well as new and existing studies on the cost of a child’s education in the state.
The basic costs per student are calculated from district to district and consist of the basic costs for teachers, student support, district management and responsibility, building management and operation as well as sporting co-curricular activities.
This base cost averages $ 7,202 per student. Including state and local shares, the state estimates spending each fiscal year at $ 10.9 billion.
Private school vouchers as part of the EdChoice scholarship program are financed directly by the state and not, as before, through a deduction from the portion of a school district.
One of the provisions of the Senate School Funding Plan included in the Conference Committee Report is the introduction of “Funding Units” established for community and STEM school funding, the EdChoice Scholarship, the Pilot Project Scholarship, the Autism Scholarship, and the Jon Peterson Special Needs a Scholarship.
As part of the budget, direct payments from the state are distributed through funding units on behalf of the scholarship holders.
Academic emergency commissions will be a thing of the past following a measure taken from the Senate version of the bill. The language that enables the three districts within the state under the control of the Academic Emergency Commission to create a three-year plan to be exempt from that control is similar to a bill presented in the Senate earlier this year.
The Fair School Funding plan was supported by major education groups including the Ohio Education Association, the Ohio School Boards Association, and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
Rick Lewis, OSBA’s chief executive officer, said the decision to include the funding plan was “bold and historic”.
“Implementing this funding model represents a generational investment that will propel Ohio into an era of stable and predictable education budgets to help schools meet the needs of all students,” Lewis said in a statement Monday evening.
The bill was not without its critics. The lone vote against the draft budget in the Senate, Senator Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, said she still could not agree to the funding formula with funding from private school vouchers, and that there were several parts of the budget that were of no use to the state.
“I know we improved the Senate budget, but the bill still contains provisions that are harmful to the Ohioans,” Fedor told the OKJ after the vote.
She said education funding was “not a full commitment” to public schools, and school districts in some neighborhoods were being left behind.
“There’s no six-year phase-in, they don’t do (cost) studies, and that’s very myopic,” said Fedor.
An income tax cut also remains in the budget, although the legislature has set itself at 3% instead of the 5% proposed by the Senate. A tax cut has been criticized by education advocates as a cut in school support.
The budget is awaiting approval from Governor Mike DeWine, who can approve or reject individual provisions of the budget on a line item basis.
This story was republished by the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.