Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s approval of the state’s new two-year budget isn’t winning over area school officials upset about flat or diminished school funding.
For school systems in Butler and Warren counties, the biennium budget signed by on Thursday detailed how Ohio will spend its operating budget of $69 billion.
Education-related provisions of the budget also alter high school graduation requirements, provide $20 million to help replace aging school buses and block new so-called state takeovers of poor-performing school districts for a year while the Republican-led legislature and the Ohio Supreme Court consider the matter.
It also provides more money to schools for student mental health counseling.
And while the new budget includes hundreds of policy and law changes, some local school officials who had lobbied hard for more state funding for local schools said the budget didn’t go far enough.
“My reaction to the new funding plan for schools is with disappointment,” said Middletown schools Treasurer Randy Bertram.
The Butler County district will see a slight increase in state funds for its $80 million annual operating budget but not enough to help with state-mandated, five-year budget projections required of all Ohio districts, Bertram said.
“I am thankful for the increased funding the next two years but we need sustainable and predictable funding for the long run if we are to do our jobs and plan for the future,” he said.
Jon Cooper, superintendent of Mason Schools, echoed the disappointment.
“Like most Ohio school districts, we’re flat-funded,” Cooper wrote on a social media posting, citing Mason schools’ receiving a 0.9 percent increase for the 2019-20 school year and a 0.4 percent increase in 2020-21.
Cooper told the Journal-News the latest state budget continues a trend of further obligating local districts to increase their tax-revenue generated portions of school funding to handle growing operating expenses.
“Although we are flat (funding), we’ve certainly had inflationary increases in costs and we’ve also seen a number of mandates over the years that don’t come with additional funds. Flat funding is what we budgeted for, but it also reflects the continued shifting burden to our local community,” he said.
The chief financial officer for Butler County’s Monroe Schools was also disappointed with the new budget.
Both Monroe Treasurer Holly Cahall and Monroe Superintendent Kathy Demers had appeared in recent months in a social media video message lobbying state legislators for increased school funding. They urged district residents to also contact lawmakers.
But the new state budget did not substantially change Ohio’s funding formula, which includes caps on money received by some districts.
The budget “did nothing to help severely capped districts like Monroe,” Cahall said.
“We are funded at 50 percent of the formula which means other schools just like us in wealth and enrollment receive more than we do. The budget made no change to this system,” she said.
“While other schools receive state funding sufficient to offer programs students need to prepare for the world tomorrow, our success is because of the generosity of our local taxpayers. This budget is not fair to them or our students,” she said. “And we will continue to work with our legislators to change this form of discrimination in funding Ohio public schools.”
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