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Government & Politics

Senate Republicans Unveil 'Sustainable' but Costly School Funding Overhaul

Ohio Senate Finance Committee chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls)
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Senate Finance Committee chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) explains a chart showing the Senate budget's formula for calculating per-student aid.

Republican Senators have unveiled their rewrite of the school funding overhaul in the House budget, which spends less per student but will be more expensive. But Senators say it’s more sustainable and reliable for the future.

The Senate budget lowers the cost to educate a child, or per student aid, by $910 from the House budget, which set it at $7,020. Per student aid now is $6,020.

The Senate's formula is based on average teacher salary and benefits of more than $72,000 divided by a student/teacher ratio of 20:1. Teacher development days, administrative and other money is added in to get a total of $6,110.

Senate Finance chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said this is the cost today.

“Two years from now, when they redo it, the average teacher salary cost may be different. The average teacher benefit cost may be different. And so on. But they’ll know what to put in the formula to determine the base cost of education," Dolan said.

Other money such as categoricals (such as funding for special ed and gifted students, transportation, etc.) and economically disadvantaged aid is on top of that.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said this plan provides more money to local districts, but "it is also more predictable and more sustainable. And that's why we think it's a superior product."

Senators restored $650 million of the $1.1 billion for counseling and other wellness programs for low-income students proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine that the House had absorbed into its funding overhaul. Dolan had previously expressed concerns about that money being used this way when it was set aside for programs specifically designed to help those students catch up to their wealthier counterparts.

That makes the Senate's plan more expensive than the House version.

The Senate will spend nearly $223 million more than the House plan, which was estimated around $1.8 billion on top of the more than $10 billion the state already spends on K-12 education.

The budget also includes direct funding of vouchers, as the House version does, with the money following the student. And the Senate budget increases EdChoice vouchers, which can be used by any student in a school building that's determined to be "failing", to $5,500 for K-8 and $7,500 for high school.

The Senate is expected to approve the budget in a floor vote next week. Then a conference committee will be formed to reconcile the two versions of the budget and send it to DeWine before the deadline June 30.

Groups that advocate for public education have supported the formula overhaul.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.