Finding a workable funding formula for the education of children preschool through high school in Ohio has long been a challenge. Since the Ohio Supreme Court decision more than two decades ago found the system based on property tax unconstitutional, educators and lawmakers have been trying to agree on a way to pay for public education – sufficiently and fairly.
Last year, the Ohio House came up with a formula that won the favor of just about everyone, but the Ohio Senate refused to put it up for a vote by the end of the term, so the process had to start over.
The House early this year approved the same plan, but the Senate came up with another proposal.
We are encouraged that members of the House and Senate reconciled their versions of an educational funding plan in the two-year state budget that went into effect July 1.
Those fighting over the years for an equitable formula may agree that the provision in the budget to pay for public education is nothing short of historical.
In working out the details of K-12 dollars in the final state budget, the conference committee ultimately went back to the House’s Fair School Funding Plan.
State Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, called the plan one of the most significant actions taken to support education in the state. Rep. Jamie Callender, R-Concord, said the new plan takes “antiquated flaws” out of the formula.
We see it as modernizing the way we pay for education. One drawback is that the bill only authorizes the formula for two years, unlike the original Cupp-Patterson model’s six-year phase-in plan. The Cupp-Patterson plan was based on what it takes to educate a student, including children in low-income areas who could need extra resources. This plan more accurately determines wealth. This has been a problem for some school districts that under the old plan were categorized as wealthy due to property values but actually were not.
Under the new model, funding will come mostly from the state. The formula calls for the state to weigh a school district’s wealth when determining the local share to be paid by the district. According to the bill, the per-pupil cost will be calculated for individual districts using the base costs for teachers, student support, district leadership, building leadership, operations and athletic co-curricular activities.
The average base cost right now is $7,202 per student. State officials estimate overall cost will be $10.9 billion in each of the next two fiscal years.
According to the bill, the state will directly pay for private school vouchers under the EdChoice scholarship program. This takes the burden off of public school districts, like those around the Chagrin Valley, that under the old plan had voucher costs deducted from their share of state funding.
Studies show that an increase in funding is linked to an increase in student achievement. That could be significant for low-income districts.
We are optimistic that the new formula will prove to be equitable and meet the constitutional standard for a “thorough and efficient” system of education in Ohio.