News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

NOCHE

Northeast Ohio Medical University

Hospice of the Western Reserve


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Education


Voinovich, Taft, Strickland and now Kasich: still no fix for school funding
Courts, lawmakers and governors have long tried to figure out how to meet a constitutional mandate
Story by STATEIMPACT'S IDA LIESKOVSZKY AND MOLLY BLOOM


 
Gov. Kasich tackled jobs last year; this year, he promises education funding changes.
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Gov. John Kasich is expected to reveal his plan to overhaul Ohio’s school funding system on Thursday. It’s an issue lawmakers and the courts have been tackling for decades. But what’s wrong with the way we fund schools now? State Impact Ohio’s Ida Lieszkovszky and Molly Bloom explain.

StateImpact explains the origins of Ohio's school funding fight

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:57)


Ohio has a school funding problem that’s been playing out in courts, political campaigns and the Statehouse for better than 20 years.

But the origin of it all is much older: the Ohio Constitution of 1851.  It requires the state to provide a “thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the State.”

So in Ohio, we are constitutionally mandated to provide an equal level of education to all students, no matter where they live.

A built-in imbalance
What makes that difficult is the way we pay for our schools; most communities rely heavily on property taxes. About half of a district’s budget comes from local property taxes. The other half is made up of a mix of mostly state funds, and some federal funds.

Because schools rely on those local dollars, there’s a big difference between how much money schools in poor urban and rural areas have, versus how much schools in wealthy suburbs have.  Wealthy districts have higher incomes, higher property values, and higher property taxes to pay for the best teachers, state-of the art facilities and a lot of extra-curricular activities that many districts with low property values could only dream of. 

A result of all this is, year after year, school districts have gad to ask voters to pass school levies. And, that where this guy came in.

The name of the education battle
“It’s obviously broken when you see so many districts, year after year, going back to the ballot for different things. That’s the test of time.”

That’s Nate DeRolph. His was the face of the last attempt to actually fix Ohio’s school funding problem. It was the DeRolph case, filed back in 1991. It went all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which declared Ohio’s school funding system unconstitutional in some form or another – four times.

Gerald Stebelton is a Republican member of the Ohio House and chairs the House Education Committee. He says plenty  has changed.

“Before the DeRolph decision, local school buildings were built almost exclusively with local tax dollars and there were districts that could just not afford to build new buildings.”

Wealthier districts could pass levies and build really nice buildings, but “the lower economic areas could not afford to build new buildings and a couple schools even had outdoor outhouses for their children.”

This was the problem DeRolph was trying to tackle, with mixed results.

An impact, though limited
Even though it ruled school funding unconstitutional, the Supreme Court couldn’t make the Legislature fix it. Finally the justices gave up. 

But the DeRolph decisions did have an impact. First, Gov. Voinovich tried to fix school funding by putting a sales tax on the ballot.  Voters rejected it. 
Then under his successor, Gov. Bob Taft, the state began giving districts money to improve their buildings. More than $10 billion has been handed out so far.

Last year, for example, the state chipped in nearly $25 million  to build a new K-12 school in western Ohio’s Darke County. The state sent $78 million to build four schools in Ashtabula County, east of Cleveland.

Over the years, lawmakers have tweaked the formula that helps pay for operating costs – sending more money to districts with poor students.

After Taft, it was Gov. Strickland’s turn to tackle school funding issues that went beyond tweaking and beyond buildings. He formed a task force. His plan put a price on what a quality education should cost, and called for the state to fund it, eventually. But that plan, and task force, fell apart when John Kasich became governor in 2011.

Don't expect more money
Now Kasich is set to present his own school-funding formula.

Kasich hasn’t told us what he’s going to do. But Eric Hanushek with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University talked with Kasich last year when the governor was trying to figure out how to fix school funding in Ohio. And he says, “I’m hopeful that he will come out with a broad weighted student-funding formula that allows for more autonomy and local decision-making, that encourages local decision-making but holds people responsible for outcomes.”

Asked if the governor was likely to spend more on education, Hanushek said, “I think that’s a tough question in every state of the union today because the economy is so uncertain and the tax revenues are so uncertain. I know that the administration here in Ohio and probably in almost every state in the union is committed to trying to improve their schools. That’s something very different from committed to spending a lot more money.”

That probably means no extra money for schools.  But maybe the governor will come up with a different way of distributing the money the schools are already getting. 
It could mean sending more money to charter schools and putting more toward private-school vouchers.

But the question remains: Is that going to fix things?

A built-in conflict
Robert Stabile is a former schools superintendent, and he wrote the guide book school officials rely on to make sense of Ohio school funding.

“The struggle for money is built into the system. You’ve got the schools, who are consumers of tax dollars. And you’ve got the residents out there, who want their taxes to be low. You’ve got the parents, who constantly want more services, …  the bus to come closer to their home, classes to be smaller, more text books, more opportunities for kids.” 

So there it is, Ohio’s school funding controversy that has lasted more than 20 years and perplexed at least three governors. Now it’s John Kasich’s turn.

It could always go back to the courts.

Tomorrow, StateImpact will sit down with Nate DeRolph, the face of the education-funding fight in Ohio. 

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Stories with Recent Comments

Portman predicts McDonald's confirmation, but says it won't be easy
I sent the following note to Senator Blumenthal after reading commentary from yesterday's hearing: Senator, You certainly have the right to ask Mr. McDonald que...

Seven minutes changed everything, but what changed Ashford Thompson?
He shot the guy four times in the head. I have never been that drunk or mad, and I have been through it. Shoot a guy once is bad, maybe a mistake, shoot a guy f...

First cricket farm in the U.S. opens in Youngstown
I am interested in cricket flour to replace soy flour in a low carbohydrate diet. As soon as you have cricket flour available for the average person, please le...

New process starts digesting sludge in Wooster
Awesome! When do our sewage rates decrease accordingly?

Akron's Chapel Hill Mall in foreclosure
Not a surprise. Between the shoplifting, gangs and violence that goes on up there it is no wonder that no one feels safe to shop at Chapel Hill. They have sca...

Ohio launches investigation into at least one Concept charter school
I worked at Noble Academy Cleveland as admin assistant and enrolment coordinator for 6 years, I know this is so valid and true and can provide staff names and p...

Crisis looms in filling aviation industry jobs in Ohio and the nation
I listened to this story yesterday morning on the radio and just want to add this comment. My son went to school to train as an air traffic controller, and gra...

Cuyahoga Valley National Park considers fire to fight invasives
I'm for the controlled burn. There are not enough people (myself included) who volunteer for the removal of invasive plant species. Therefore, another solution ...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University