Area school leaders lobby for new state school funding plan: What they’re saying

Ohio's public schools need a new state funding formula and has for decades, argued area school officials Tuesday during on online meeting to lobby the Ohio Senate to approve a new bill already passed by the Ohio House earlier this month. Lakota Schools Treasurer Jenni Logan (left) was one of the main speakers during the online meeting, which included 65 area school officials. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)
Ohio's public schools need a new state funding formula and has for decades, argued area school officials Tuesday during on online meeting to lobby the Ohio Senate to approve a new bill already passed by the Ohio House earlier this month. Lakota Schools Treasurer Jenni Logan (left) was one of the main speakers during the online meeting, which included 65 area school officials. (Photo By Michael D. Clark\Journal-News)

After three years of work to change Ohio’s school funding formula, area school leaders gathered online Tuesday to publicly lobby the state senate into adopting a new way to pay for schools just approved by House members.

“This is a top priority for our students and for the state of Ohio,” said Middletown Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. during a public Zoom meeting featuring 65 participants and many of Greater Cincinnati and Dayton-area’s top school officials.

Those who spoke during the meeting, contend time is running out and they are pushing the Ohio Senate to soon approve the House version of the bill legislators there passed earlier this month - with bi-partisan support - by an 84-8 margin.

The urgency is decades in the making, said school officials, as Ohio’s current method of public-school funding has been declared unconstitutional numerous times since the 1990s.

Lakota Schools Treasurer Jenni Logan, who was among the group of officials from around the state who worked to create the new funding formula, said the current way of paying for public schools is flawed.

“For over 80 percent of (school) districts the current funding plan is not working for them,” Logan told the meeting participants.

Ohio’s school funding system was ruled unconstitutional because of its over-reliance on local property taxes, creating inequities between communities with high and low property wealth.

The proposed Ohio House would calculate local communities’ funding share on what has been called a fairer mix of income and property wealth. It calculates a “base cost” to educate an Ohio student, tied to detailed school staffing ratios, and bases other funding on calculations for busing needs, special education, technology and more.

If fully funded after a six-year phase-in, the new plan calls for a $2 billion per year increase in state funding for K-12 schools. The state currently spends about $10 billion a year for K-12 education.

Longtime Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner favors the bill, calling it “a pretty darn good product … certainly light years better than what we’re currently using.”

Logan said “this school funding plan is a fair plan.”

The proposed formula “looks at every district and the capacity of that district in a fair way. Your income and your property wealth are both considered in every district that is looked at with the most recent information,” she said.

“The costs of educating our students is a shared responsibility with the state and the local (districts), and we believe that this plan more fairly represents your ability to pay as a resident than our current (formula) does now.”

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