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Advocate for Fair School Funding Legislation During Lame Duck – November 2020
The Ohio Constitution requires the legislature to provide adequate and equitable funding so every student in every public school district has the benefit of a sound education regardless of the local community’s capacity to fund its public schools.
More than 20 years after the Ohio Supreme Court found Ohio’s funding system to be unconstitutional in the first DeRolph decision, a remedy is at hand. Thanks to bipartisan leadership by Rep. John Patterson and House Speaker Bob Cupp, and Senator Peggy Lehner and Senator Vernon Sykes, Substitute House Bill 305 and the companion legislation, Senate Bill 376 propose the Fair School Funding Plan, a genuine solution.
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Fair School Funding Plan (Sub H.B. 305) Presentation
This proposal is what we need now, to stabilize and improve this essential public resource, our public schools.
The legislature must act by the end of the Lame Duck session if this long-awaited remedy is to be implemented.
Why Sub. HB 305? And Why Now?
Students, school districts, and taxpayers all deserve a workable and fair system. Sub. HB 305 is comprehensive and a meaningful blueprint for the investment of public funds. It is a serious response to the DeRolph imperative and deserves support. How well it succeeds will depend on the investment the legislature makes during the budget process. Here are the merits of passing this bill now:
1. Public school funding is in tatters and school districts are financially vulnerable.
2. Sub. HB 305 is ready for adoption. It was developed over three years through a model process of thorough, informed, and transparent policy making led by education practitioners.
3. Sub. HB 305 is fair. It is driven by a commitment to an inspired vision of what public schools can accomplish, and it is based on the actual cost of providing for a quality education.
4. Sub. HB 305 makes the distribution of state funds more equitable by using a more precise measure of local capacity to pay for public schools.
5. Sub. HB 305 ends funding vouchers, charter schools, and inter-district transfers by deducting those dollars from state aid owed to districts. This “deduction funding” drains resources out of local districts, creates greater funding inequality, fuels greater reliance on local funds, and reduces education opportunities for students, particularly in districts with concentrated poverty.
6. Failure to act would mean chaos going forward. There is no “plan B” or prospect of a solution that could meet the quality of this proposal.
7. It’s about time!
Key Features of the Fair School Funding Plan
The Ohio Constitution calls for a state and local partnership to fund a high-quality education in Ohio’s system of common schools. The local capacity to fund schools and the burden on tax payers can vary widely. Similarly, individual children have different needs. State resources are essential to ensuring that all children have access to a high quality of education regardless of their needs or where they live.
The legislation as introduced:
1. Defines how to use state resources to improve access to high-quality education for all students. The plan seeks to provide adequate resources for an education that goes beyond the basics, which can ignite life-long learners, develop thoughtful citizens and protect democracy, and prepare our youth to contribute to the economy and society.
2. Provides a blueprint for spending but does not actually fund the plan. That would take Hi place in the budget process. The architects recommend a six-year period to phase in most of the plan.
3. Establishes a base cost for providing a general education of high quality to a typical student (a student without special needs). The base cost was defined through a thorough assessment of the components and the actual cost of operating a school district and educating children. They include: pupil/teacher ratios supported by national research and state practice, Ohio data regarding salaries and benefits are applied. It also includes resources for professional development for teachers, addressing the health, safety, social, and emotional needs of students, academic and athletic co-curricular activities, technology, and the general operation of school buildings and districts, including building and central office leadership and staff.
4. Uses both the property wealth of a community and the median income of its residents to define the local capacity to fund education. This more accurately and fairly defines the local contribution to the base cost.
5. Ends deduction funding for open enrollment, community schools, and vouchers, removing this expense from local school districts and making it part of the state budget.
6. Increases Categorical Aid for children living in poverty, pre-k education, special education, gifted, and English language learners. It also appropriates $5 million for research to more accurately capture costs for each category.
7. Increases the state contribution to student transportation, makes policy changes to reduce district transportation costs, and accounts for diverse challenges of compact and sprawling school districts.
8. Increases funds for Educational Service Centers.