Grade still out for Kasich on school funds

First Posted: 2/7/2015

After looking over the school-funding plan that Ohio Gov. John Kasich released last week, Bob Humble had a simple question.

“How can a state in the best financial shape it’s ever been in, be cutting funds to any district?” the superintendent of Fairbanks Schools, near Marysville, asked a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch.

“This is absolutely the craziest, most goofiest formula I’ve ever seen,” Humble added.

The funding plan actually may not be as bad as Humble tends to paint it.

Kasich set up a $300 million innovation fund that offers incentives for public schools willing to change the way they operate. The governor also maintains that public school districts with low property values will receive more money to help ease the disparity with rich districts. There also will be more money for preschool in poor districts.

However, the more school officials and legislators examine the governor’s plan, the more puzzled they seem to become as to why they are receiving either more or less money under the proposal.

In that regard, Kasich has fallen into the same trap that has snared every Ohio governor since the state Supreme Court ruled Ohio’s school-funding system unconstitutional in 1997. Kasich caused himself more grief than needed by putting together a funding formula that is so complex that staff members have trouble explaining it. This is especially true when there are cases like that of the East Knox School District in Central Ohio. The very same week state auditor David Yost declared the district in fiscal emergency, the governor proposal reduced its state aid by 4.8 percent, or $94,000, over the next two years. During the past four years, the district of 1,070 students has failed to pass a funding request at the ballot box nine straight times.

It remains to be seen how the complex funding formula will impact schools in the Lima region.

David Varda, executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, told the Dispatch he wants more information, but as he looks at the district breakdowns, “It doesn’t seem that it matches up totally with what (Kasich) said. It’s not what I would have thought based on his speech.”

Varda added: “We keep introducing new formulas, and everyone keeps thinking we should be helping Appalachia. But none of the formulas do that.”