- Associated Press - Friday, March 29, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio would spend about $400 million more on school funding next fiscal year and $320 million more the following year under a proposed overhaul of the funding system, according to estimates shared Friday by lawmakers advocating for the plan.

No school districts would lose money next year, they said, and over 500 of the 610 districts would get additional funding during the upcoming two-year budget. Those estimated increases range from a few thousand dollars to more than $20 million.

The proponents emphasized that the figures are preliminary, using estimates for certain data that isn’t yet known or that might change, such as property values and local income.

Democratic Rep. John Patterson, of Jefferson, and Republican Rep. Bob Cupp, of Lima, led the workgroup proposing a new funding plan phased in over four years. They said it’s a fairer division of local and state funding, and factors in the cost of educating a child and a community’s capacity to help pay for that.

The school-funding system has been repeatedly adjusted since the Ohio Supreme Court found it unconstitutional in 1997, and Patterson has referred to fixing the system as a “legacy project.”



But big questions about the plan remain unsettled: Does Ohio have enough revenue to fund it? And will lawmakers considering the plan ultimately support an overhaul?

The current formula is a mix of federal funding, local sources such as taxes, and state disbursements that vary depending on enrollment and property values, but it doesn’t apply to more than 80 percent of districts because of funding caps and guarantees that further complicate things.

Advocates have expressed hope that fairer funding would help address an achievement gap correlated to poverty. Public-school advocates and teachers unions have praised ideas in the Cupp-Patterson proposal.

Some aspects of the plan overlap GOP Gov. Mike DeWine’s two-year budget proposal, which was introduced before the suggested school-funding revamp and didn’t reflect changes to the formula but did call for allotting $550 million in new funding to support services such as mental health counseling and after-school programs, particularly in higher-poverty areas.

The lawmakers’ proposal calls for determining a “base cost” for educating children in each district, then adding funding to provide for other needs, such as students in poverty, career technical education, and preschool access for economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds. It also would end the system of caps and guarantees that diverts so many districts off the existing funding formula. The expected local share of K-12 funding for each district would take into account property values as well as income levels.

The result, according to the estimates, would mean millions more dollars from the state for some districts and nothing for others . The largest district, Columbus schools, would see an estimated $5.5 million more in the next fiscal year and an additional $16.2 million the following year, not counting the preschool expansion.

Cincinnati and Akron would see multimillion-dollar boosts, while Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo, Youngstown and dozens of smaller districts would get no increase.

Cupp and Patterson also propose directly funding charter schools, rather than continuing to pull that funding from the districts where their students live, but they said lawmakers still would have to sort out details of that.

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