Ohio plan for school reform is unveiled

By Marc Kovac | R-C Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- The state will provide increased funding for poorer school districts statewide, through a new formula that takes into account property values and income levels.

Additionally, there will be more state money provided for programs for the disabled, gifted students and those learning the English language.

Funding will be offered for pre-school for youngsters living in poverty. Certain students will have greater access to vouchers to attend private schools. And all districts will receive at least as much in state formula funding as they have in the current fiscal year.

Those were among the details unveiled by Gov. John Kasich and administration officials Thursday as part of a much-anticipated reform package.

"We want to make sure that every boy and girl, no matter what district they come from, are going to be in a position to have the resources they need to be able to compete with boys and girls in any other district across the state," the governor told an audience of school superintendents and officials at a suburban Columbus hotel. "If you are poor, you're going to get more. If you are richer, you're going to get less."

The proposal will be part of Kasich's biennium budget bill, which he will introduce on Monday. Legislative hearings will begin on Tuesday, with passage expected by July.

Kasich said the plan is "fully funded," with about $7.4 billion and $7.7 billion in state general revenue and lottery monies each year of the biennium. That's up from $6.9 billion in the current fiscal year.

Specific district-by-district funding information will be released in the next week.

In general, under the new formula, the state will distribute funding to schools based on what a 20-mill levy would generate in a district with property valuations of $250,000 per students. In the lowest wealth districts, that valuation is about $50,000, while two dozen districts have valuations of more than $250,000.

Among other provisions, the governor's plan calls for increased financial support for disabled students, with assurances that the money is being used for students in classrooms and not to cover administrative or unrelated costs.

It would create a "Straight A" fund, $300 million in one-time grants for districts to improve their operations and reduce costs.

The state would provide increased funding for children in impoverished areas to enroll in pre-school programs and expanded vouchers for students in those areas and those attending schools having issues ensuring third-graders are meeting state reading guarantees.

Many school groups praised the plan Thursday, including the Ohio eSchool Families and Friends Coalition and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

But Democrats said Kasich's plan does little to restore nearly $2 billion in cuts schools experienced in the last budget cycle.

"As a result, class sizes have ballooned in many schools, teachers have been cut, many programs that help students succeed have been eliminated and taxpayers have been asked to bear more of the responsibility for educating our children." House Minority Leader Armond Budish said.

Michele Prater, spokeswoman for the Ohio Education Association, one of the state's largest teacher's unions, said the group could not comment on the plan until exact budget language and specific district appropriations were released.

"Until we see that, we can't comment on the specifics of the proposal," she said. "However, it's clear that the upcoming budget proposal does not restore funding cuts from the previous cycle, which were detrimental to Ohio students at the local level."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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  • WatchingTheWatchers: Amen!!!

  • Eliminate teacher's unions and forced union dues. We are the laughing stock of the western world and behind even 3rd world countries since teacher's unions appeared on the scene to ally with the ACLU in destroying discipline in the schools. Take them back to 1950 and throw out the unions.