COLUMBUS — Ohio legislators have been working for years on a plan to reform school funding. The Ohio House last week passed Substitute House Bill 305 and is awaiting consideration in the Ohio Senate.
Much of the groundwork on the Fair School Funding Plan was done by now House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson).
A companion piece of legislation Senate Bill 376 is pending in the Ohio Senate.
The need for school funding reform goes back to 1997 when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in DeRolph v. State of Ohio that Ohio’s method for funding schools through the state’s school foundation program was unconstitutional under Article VI, Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution.
State Representative Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) praised the passage of the bill.
“The framework outlined in this bill puts Ohio’s schoolchildren first,” Riedel said. “All students deserve a quality education in our state, and I am thankful that the Ohio House took a large step forward in advancing this historic reform.”
A key cornerstone of the plan is in reforming how Ohio supports local schools. The legislation adjusts the distribution formula by using both property and income wealth to determine the local share.
The bill also contains additional categories to assist local schools with special need students. These categorical aid components include gifted education, special education, English language learners, economically disadvantaged, and transportation. Each component was modified with input from practitioners and children advocates from across Ohio.
The Elida school board, in a meeting last week, passed a resolution endorsing the Fair School Funding Plan and encouraged quick action on the bills.
“It’s a huge step in the right direction,” said Joe Parker, Elida schools treasurer. “I applaud Cupp-Patterson for taking the time. They spent quality time with some of the greatest minds when it comes to economics and school funding and study if from all angles.”
The legislation seeks to simplify school funding.
“The piece that I think I like the most when they start introducing that part of the formula is going to be based on the income levels of the folks in your district. I think that part is key for our district because I think in the past we’ve always been hit hard because you’ve got a high tax base so you get less state funding. That didn’t always work out for us when you look at the amount of poverty in our district. So I think what they’re trying to get to is a simple formula, a fair formula,” Parker said.
Lima school treasurer Shelly Reiff applauds the work the Ohio General Assembly has done to reform school funding.
“When it comes to 610 school districts in Ohio, and approximately 1.7 million children, a one-size-fits-all plan does not work,” Reiff said. “The legislators and committee that worked hours constructing this formula have finally come up with a plan that treats all districts fairly. This plan is based on the actual cost of education; taking into consideration the increased cost of educating students in higher poverty areas. This is a win-win for the Lima City Schools and something that has not been in place since I have been a school treasurer.”
Ottawa-Glandorf school Superintendent Don Horstman also backs the legislation as being something that is long overdue.
“Every year I have been in education we hear excuses about waiting until the next biennial budget, the next governor, the next state superintendent, or next session of the General Assembly to properly address school funding. This is a widely accepted, bipartisan piece of legislation that has found overwhelming support in the Ohio House, and it needs to be voted on and passed in the Senate. Our children, school districts and communities deserve to have a reliable, well thought out, common sense school funding formula put in place immediately. We need the Ohio Senate to quit pushing off this responsibility and finish the job the Ohio House started,” Horstman said.
Bath school Superintendent Rich Dackin is excited about the possibility of school funding reform.
“The current bipartisan working group of legislators, superintendents, treasurers and other public education experts have spent over three years developing a plan that establishes base costs for students, provides a stable formula for distribution and allows for local flexibility on how districts can use those dollars. I commend the work of Speaker Bob Cupp, Representative John Patterson, Senator Peggy Lehner and Senator Vernon Sykes, as well as the other members of this workgroup. They worked hard to reach all stakeholders and valued their input throughout the entire process,” Dackin said.
Shawnee school superintendent James Kanable was also impressed with the work done to get things this far.
“It is good legislation that will help all the children of Ohio. This is the culmination of a three-year process led by Bob Cupp and John Patterson with the goal to address the funding of Ohio schools. It has involved representatives of those who work with districts throughout the state and appropriately responds to the Ohio Supreme Court’s DeRolph decision,” Kanable said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.