Governor John Kasich has made clear that he wants to privatize the schools of Ohio as much as possible with vouchers, charters, and online schools. His new budget reflects his attitude toward public education.

This report came from Jan Resseger in Cleveland. Jan works tirelessly on behalf of equity and social justice.

It is likely you have been getting mixed messages about Ohio’s proposed school funding plan. The political rhetoric is designed to confuse you. How to sort out the facts and how to consider the moral implications of the plan that will allocate opportunity among Ohio’s children?

First, forwarded below is an alert from the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding. You’ll remember them as the DeRolph plaintiff group. The point being made here is clear and simple. Of course poor districts will get more from the state than the wealthiest districts, even though the proposed formula for this biennium rewards rich districts more than poor districts. All of Ohio’s school funding plans going back over a century deliver more money to poor districts. That is a primary function of a state funding formula… to make up at least to a tiny degree for disparate property taxing capacity across local school districts. Back in the 1990s, the Supreme Court of Ohio found four times that Ohio’s formula did not do a good enough job of equalizing access to opportunity.

The problem with this year’s budget proposal is that it doesn’t deliver anywhere what is needed to make up for vast disparities in local property taxing capacity. This means that school districts in wealthy communities will continue to have plenty while the poorest rural and urban districts won’t have nearly enough. This means, for example, that despite passage of a 15 mill levy last November, Cleveland probably still won’t be able to afford to reduce class size enough or hire back all the social workers who were laid off two years ago.

It is appropriate here to remember the words of political philosopher Benjamin Barber: “Equality is not achieved by restricting the fastest, but by assuring the less advantaged a comparable opportunity. Comparable in this matter does not mean identical. The disadvantaged usually require more assistance to compete. Adequate schooling allows those born disadvantaged to compete with those advantaged.”

Here also is a link to an analysis of the proposed state budget by an alternative newspaper in Cincinnati. It is a fair and balanced analysis.

In a constitutional, thorough and efficient system of public common schools, all students and all districts should be winners when a state budget bill is crafted. The state has the constitutional responsibility to secure a thorough and efficient system of public common schools for the benefit of all of Ohio’s school children. So why should there be any losers?

State administration officials, in regard to their state budget, had said such things as:

Students in every zip code deserve a quality education
If you are poor you will get more, if you are rich you will get less
The district-by-district spreadsheet revealed that poor districts typically will not receive more state aid than the current amount. The administration officials then said:

We were not looking for a specific per pupil funding number-there is no magical number
We are not attempting to arrive at a cost amount per pupil
Poor school districts receive more total state money per pupil
A historical perspective is warranted. Poor districts have received more state money per pupil than rich districts since at least 1906. SB 103, enacted April 2, 1906, provided state funds to poor districts on top of the state subsidy of $1.85 per pupil for all districts. In May 1908, HB 1302 appropriated $45,000 “to assist with the maintenance of weak school districts.” A $50,000 appropriation, via HB 561, was enacted in May 1910-again, to put more state money in poor school districts.

The state’s first foundation program (Ohio Foundation Program) was enacted in 1935. The Foundation Program Act provided additional funding to poor districts in addition to the state “flat rate” per pupil amount to all districts. The legislature revised the foundation law in 1947 but the result remained the same-more state aid to poor districts.

In August 1975 the legislature enacted SB 170 which included the equal yield formula. The premise was to yield more state funds to poor districts. Equal yield was repealed in the early 1980s in favor of a return to the foundation program. The equal yield formula failed because it was grossly underfunded.

The idea of more funds for low wealth districts is obviously not new. However, even with more state funding per pupil provided to low wealth districts, the total per pupil revenue available to low wealth districts is much less than high wealth districts. Since, in general, low wealth districts will receive no increase with the proposed state budget, the equity gap will widen.

The proposed budget for FY 14 & FY 15 is a loser for all districts. In general, most school districts will be receiving less state and federal money than they received in FY 11. K-12 public education will not benefit from an improved Ohio economy under the state budget proposal and thus a greater burden will be shifted to local revenue sources.FY 2014 and FY 2015 STATE BUDGET PROPOSAL:

Rich districts, poor districts, which are the winners?

Ms. Jan Resseger
Minister for Public Education and Witness
Justice and Witness Ministries
700 Prospect, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
“That all citizens will be given an equal start through a sound education is one of the most basic, promised rights of our democracy. Our chronic refusal as a nation to guarantee that right for all children…. is rooted in a kind of moral blindness, or at least a failure of moral imagination…. It is a failure which threatens our future as a nation of citizens called to a common purpose… tied to one another by a common bond.” —Senator Paul Wellstone, March 31, 2000