LIMA — Can Ohio pass school funding reform in a month?
State Sen. Matt Huffman, who is slated to become Ohio’s next Senate President, said probably not. Instead, he expects the next legislature to tackle the problem in its first six months.
“I think this can be done because I think it’s been teed up,” Huffman said. “I think people know what the solutions are. It can be done by looking at this over a period of time and slowly sort of weaning off these school districts that have — for all the reasons I said — more money than they do.”
During a visit to The Lima News, Huffman spoke extensively about the school funding situation and why he thinks the state’s 134th General Assembly will be the one to update Ohio’s allocation formulas while a bipartisan solution, known as the Cupp-Patterson funding plan, won’t receive the Senate’s approval in its current form.
According to Huffman, the bill has prepped a wider discussion around school funding that needs to be considered, but he would like to see those talks re-framed to reconsider the extra $2 billion in additional education funding the bill, as written, currently provides.
“Shouldn’t the public policy of the state of Ohio be from the point of view of the taxpayers to provide an education at the most efficient cost?” Huffman said.
While specifics of his proposal have yet to be released, he said any funding bill would have to be retooled to deal with the state’s issues. First, he would like to see future funding formulas consider the average incomes of residents in each school district to gauge the district’s needs. Relatedly, the state has to do a better job tracking the additional spending lower-income schools require in order for the state to adequately make up the difference between districts with low and high property rates.
Such changes, however, could cause some political fallout. A number of his proposals — such as one setting funding to population and nixing transitional aid — will most likely decrease what some school districts receive from the state.
“We have to be willing to acknowledge that if there’s a dramatic lessening of the population in school districts, that those school districts are going to get less money, and nobody wants to say my school districts are going to get less money,” Huffman said. “And that’s the fundamental governing problem that we have.”
Another sticking point may be changes to the state’s educational choice programs. As a long-time advocate of EdChoice vouchers, Huffman supports state dollars being made available for private schools, which he argues can be operated more cheaply because they lack union restrictions and state mandates.
“Let’s stop arguing with local school districts about how much of their money is going to charter schools or scholarship problems. Let’s just have the state pay for them,” he said.
Either way, Huffman said he is dedicated to making headway on the school funding issue next year.
“It is now my intention to try to resolve this, if not in the first six months of next year, than sometime before I’m done in the four years that I have remaining in my term, hopefully, as president of the Senate,” he said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.