A bipartisan plan for funding Ohio’s public schools gives more control to local districts and will help develop the state’s students into the workforce of the future, its proponents say.
The “Fair School Funding Plan” is likely to cost taxpayers more money, Reps. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and John Patterson, D-Jefferson, conceded in unveiling the proposal, but they declined to give an estimate. They intend to reveal more details Friday.
The approach, which could phase in over several years, eliminates funding caps and funds charter schools separately. It increases support for students in poverty, English language learners, bus purchases and school technology; it includes money for a technological device, such as a Chromebook, for every student.
“It bases state school funding on what students truly need to succeed as determined by local educators and research-based studies,” Patterson said during the conference. “It is fair to our students. Our plan treats all Ohio school districts and taxpayers fairly, based on their ability to pay.”
The current funding model is “seriously flawed” and “more a patch than a formula,” Cupp said. The new formula, he said, is more predictable and stable than the current one, which compares school districts to one another.
The new approach looks at districts individually and calculates funding using “an objective formula,” Cupp said. It determines the local share of funding based on 60 percent of a district’s property values coupled with 40 percent based on resident income, Patterson said.
As envisioned, the formula, developed by a group of school officials from across the state, sends 95 percent of funding to classroom instruction, school operations or related support. Cupp said he believes the proposed formula is constitutional and complies with a 1997 Ohio Supreme Court ruling – the DeRolph case – that found the state’s then-approach to education funding was unconstitutional.
In a statement, Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said the proposal provides “a real opportunity to ensure every child in every school across the state can live up to their individual, God-given promise and the promise of our state.”
Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins released a statement calling Ohio’s current school funding formula “a patchwork of band-aids” and said, “Ohio must enact a student-centered formula that is fair, adequate and predictable and that ensures that all students have the resources to succeed regardless of where they live or their family’s income.”
Greg R. Lawson, a research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, raised concerns about the plan, particularly the increased funding.
“Despite this tremendous effort, it is not clear how this plan will accomplish what Ohioans so desperately deserve and need – good academic outcomes for our children that gives them the tools they need for future success,” Lawson said in a statement. “Increasing government spending, without addressing critical underlying reforms to the entire education system, is a recipe for higher taxes with more students continuing to fall behind.”