School funding overhaul proposed

By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

School funding throughout Ohio could get a long-anticipated overhaul later this year through a bi-partisan effort spearheaded by two state representatives.

“The efforts being made to accurately analyze the costs to educate will definitely help bring stability to school funding,” said Canal Winchester Schools Treasurer Nick Roberts. “I like that efforts are being done to provide for the ‘whole’ child (such as)—social, emotional and security—because the responsibility of schools and associate costs have changed over the last 20 years.”

Roberts said the current formula places dollar amounts on the costs to educate special needs and regular education students with no substantive support proving costs are accurate.

Leading the initiative are Rep. Bob Cupp of Lima and Rep. John Patterson of Ashtabula County, along with superintendents, treasurers, and other experts, are joining together to resolve an ongoing issue in state funding for schools.

“I’m eager to see the plan and if this plan can make progress in the House and Senate,” said Roberts. “I like that the two parties recognize a problem and are working together with colleagues and financial experts to resolve the problem at its core.”

Roberts said the system needs overhauled to provide each district with the funds needed according to an equitable state funding formula.

For example, Roberts said some districts receive less than 70 percent of the formula while other districts are receiving a greater amount due to guarantees.

“It is impossible to create a formula that encompasses all districts in Ohio with varying wealth and poverty factors,” said Roberts. “However, if the formula indicates this is the fair amount of state funding, then this should be the amount provided. It is not fair that wealthier districts are expected to cover 100 percent of the costs and districts with significantly declining enrollments are to receive the same amount of funds as they were when enrollment was much higher.”

In Canal Winchester, the district’s general fund revenue sources include real estate tax, income tax (0.75 percent), state formula funding, state property tax reimbursements (i.e., homestead and rollbacks) and other miscellaneous revenues that include pay-to-participate fees, student fees, Medicare reimbursements, TIF payments, etc.

The district currently receives 53 percent of its funding from local taxpayers and 47 percent from the state, which includes both the formula funding and state reimbursements.

“In my 12-plus years of working in or around education I have noticed attempts to change school funding, but most have been band-aide approach fixes instead of deep diving into the underlying issues of school funding,” said Roberts.

However, he felt the most recent formula implemented by former Gov. John Kasich was the closest schools have been to having adequate school funding—the only issue in the funding related to allowing caps and guarantees in the formula.

“These should have been phased out over two or three years, which would have made this formula superior to all other previous state funding efforts,” Roberts said,

The most recent funding formula benefits Canal Winchester Local Schools. The district had stable or declining state funding from 2006 to 2013, which put more burden on local taxpayers. Since 2014, the state formula allowed the district to grow as much as the cap would allow.

“Our district went from about $13.1 million (2013) in state formula funding to $19.2 million this year,” said Roberts. “However, we are closing in on the formula cap of $21 million within the next two years, which would put us back on track for no additional increases moving forward.”

When asked what places additional burdens on school funding, Roberts’ immediate answer was the introduction of charter/community schools, which he said has resulted in unnecessary expenses for public school districts.

“For example, our district receives about $3,200 per pupil in the formula funding,” Roberts said. “However, if this same student made a choice to attend a charter school, the district has more than $7,500 deducted from its state foundation. In my opinion, districts should not be deducted more than they received per pupil if the funding approach is per-pupil funding.”

According to Roberts, March 25 is the official rollout of the Cupp-Patterson proposal, which will include simulations for each district.

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