Legislators, Educators to Discuss New School Funding Plan
State lawmakers are once again considering a new way to fund Ohio’s public schools. WKSU’s Learning Curve project has been exploring the proposed legislation and is partnering on a panel discussion Tuesday night where more can be learned about the legislation from its sponsors and other key stakeholders.
The session is part of Real Talk, a collaboration of four Leagues of Women Voters in Northeast Ohio: Akron, Hudson, Greater Cleveland and Kent.
Cynthia Peeples from the Hudson League and Susan Kaeser, the League’s education specialist, talk with us about the event.
SARAH TAYLOR: Cynthia, you’re organizing these Real Talk discussions. Can you tell us a little bit about what the whole goal of them is?
CYNTHIA PEEPLES: This program is really a space where there are transformational leaders, community stakeholders, and impacted Northeast Ohio residents to have that real, raw, unfiltered dialogue about issues of inequity, injustice, discrimination and racism and all of those undercurrents that really perpetuate cycles of poverty, underfunded public schools, school-to-prison pipeline, criminal injustice, employment, and housing insecurity.
SARAH: The school issue has been around in Ohio for decades. The funding formula that's currently in place has been declared unconstitutional four times. Now, it seems like maybe there is a real goal to get this fixed. Susie, can you talk about the proposal that's called the Fair School Funding formula?
SUSAN KAESER: The main things that make this fair—there are four things that are really important.
- Calculating base cost in a new way: First, we have in the past just divided up state funding based on the amount of money that was available. In this case, a very careful process implemented over three years, drawing on the expertise of educators, created what we call the base cost. This is the amount of money the state makes sure every school district has to provide for quality, and that base cost is based on actual cost. So it's not a made up number. It's really through careful analysis of every input into operating a school system [that they've come up with what] would make providing kids with enough things to make sure that their education would prepare them for our 21st century life. So that's the most important part of it.
- Factoring in median income of district taxpayers: Then, as we know in Ohio, funding of schools is a partnership between the state and local communities. So the formula that is created takes into account the capacity of a local community to pay its share of the base cost, and in this case what they've done so great is they've added—it used to be just based on the property wealth of a community—but they've added a second variable which has been in the League's positions for years that you also account for the taxpayers' median income. So those districts that are poorer who have been in the past, required to rely much more heavily on local property taxes, which means that they are required to tax themselves even more to get to the same amount, this formula will really create fairness because it will give equal opportunity in the poorer districts and will not overburden local taxpayers. So that's really important.
- Considering students with special needs: A third really important part is we know the needs of individual children are very different, so it does a wonderful job of looking into the special needs of disadvantaged students, gifted students and children with disabilities and really comes up with a much more fair and bigger investment in their unique needs.
- Ending deduction funding: And finally the thing that is incredibly important is that it ends the deduction funding method which is used to fund charters and vouchers, which takes money straight out of local school districts. Funds that are appropriated for public school kids are diverted to pay for voucher costs. By directly funding that as a line item in the state budget, it means those options still exist, but they aren't at the cost of the public system, so the public system gets to be disentangled from that mess and to directly receive the money that is appropriated for them. So the deduction funding has really driven inequality, and this is a substantial way to reaffirm equality.
SARAH: And the panel discussion Cynthia that you've organized includes one of the state legislators who helped craft this plan. He's going to be the moderator of the discussion?
CYNTHIA: Yes, that would be former state Rep. John Patterson [of Jefferson in Ashtabula County] and he has just been brilliant as far as building this panel with Susan, Ryan Pendleton [chief financial officer] from Akron Public Schools and myself. We've been, we're continuing to craft it and fine tune it and refine it and he has brought a star-studded cast to this panel. We've got 13 onscreen contributors who will be storytelling and speaking about why they are personally invested, and as education specialists and leaders, why the state needs to be wholly invested in this plan.
As Kaeser stated, "This isn't about pitting communities against each other. It's creating a plan for the whole state that satisfies the state's responsibility to make this right.”
The panelists include:
- Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord), co-sponsor of HB1 (Fair School Funding plan)
- Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland), co-sponsor of HB1
- Akron Public Schools Treasurer/CFO Ryan Pendleton
- Waverly City Schools Treasurer/CFO Claudia Zaler
- Perrysburg Schools Superintendent Tom Hosler
- Middletown City School District Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr.
- Ohio Education Association President Scott Maurer
- Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper
- Ohio Association of School Business Officials Director Katie Johnson
- Buckeye Assoc. of School Administrators Gov. Relations Dir. Kevin Miller
- Ohio School Board Assoc. Dep. Dir. of Legislative Svcs. Will Schwartz
The virtual event, Equitable Public School Funding: Why It Matters and How To Get There, is Tuesday night, March 23 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.