Officials from Akron and across Ohio testified in Columbus Thursday in support of a new school funding plan they say is more equitable and realistic than what’s been in place for the last 30 years.
Eighteen months ago, Ohio Reps Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) asked active school superintendents, treasurers, educators and administrators to put their heads together to create a funding plan that would serve Ohio’s 610 school districts based on their individual needs.
The bipartisan group developed the Fair School Funding Plan, which uses both property values and income to identify a community’s ability to pay its fair share, unlike the current plan, which has been deemed unconstitutional and relies heavily on property values. Currently, districts with higher property values unfairly benefit, while 82 percent of districts receive either the capped or guaranteed levels of funding.
The goal of the new plan was to:
- Define the costs of educating a student and operating a school district
- Ensure students are enabled to achieve their highest potential despite their economic situation or the district’s property wealth
- Create a fair and stable funding formula
- Provide money directly to the schools and students
Akron Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Ryan Pendleton helped create the new plan, which he said is based on the actual costs of education. And it either eliminates or reduces the existing artificial caps and guarantees districts face, while respecting local municipalities’ control.
“It is a new reality based formula that’s based around the classroom and kids, people can follow it, it makes sense,” Pendleton said. “There are districts who are on the guarantees, meaning they won’t get new monies, who are supportive of this formula because they know there’s no way under the current formula for them to have their specific needs addressed in the legislature.”
In addition to the base costs of education, the plan includes funding for tech, STEM and special education, as well as for gifted students and English learners. It also includes funding to address poverty and the mental health needs of communities, while improving security and school bus safety.
The plan has been endorsed by the executive committee of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, which unanimously endorsed the plan's process, goals and objectives. The Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Education Association all support the new plan as well. The officials’ testimonies and the associations’ endorsements bring support to the plan as the Ohio General Assembly works through budget decisions over the next few weeks for the upcoming two-year cycle.