Normally we have reservations when lawmakers try to pass important legislation during the final days of a lameduck session.
That’s not the case in regards to the Fair School Funding plan.
It has taken the Ohio Legislature 23 years to get this close to passing a school funding plan that would be in compliance with the 1997 Ohio Supreme Court’s DeRolph ruling. Such a historic opportunity should not be lost. It’s companion bill in the Senate deserves a debate and vote in the final days of this legislative session.
Without that Senate action, it’s back to the drawing board for school funding as all pending legislation must start over beginning the first of the year.
On Thursday the House approved the Fair School Funding Planby an 84-8 vote. It came after three years of extensive research, collaboration and improvements from school treasurers, superintendents, finance experts and both Republican and Democratic House members. It was led by new House Speaker Robert Cupp, R-Lima, and Rep. John Patterson, D-Brunswick.
The House plan has drawn sweeping praise across the state. It has the backing of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio School Board Association and the Ohio Association of School Business Association. They call it definable, defensible and transparent. That’s also the way school administrators in the Lima region see it in putting their support behind it.
Senate Republicans argue the delay is necessary. They are skeptical of a projected eventual cost of $2 billion per year or more.
“I’m not being critical … but it’s hard for me to move on a bill when such a significant portion of the model is unknown,” Sen. Matt Dolan said, R-Chagrin Falls, told the Columbus Dispatch.
Incoming Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, had similar reservations, he told the Dispatch.
“I think it’s a pretty tough thing for the Senate, in the last two weeks of a General Assembly, to pass,” Huffman said.
Proponents contend the bill’s six-year phase-in should alleviate those concerns, with longtime Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner telling the Akron Beacon Journal that the bill simply provides a funding framework, not actual spending.
Never before has a solution to the state funding of schools drawn such support. It would be unfortunate if the bill died without a debate before the Legislature adjourns this month. To dismiss it without a debate is not right.