DeWine budget sets stage for Ohio House’s sweeping school-funding revamp
Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget made a statement about his school-funding priorities, but he purposely did not alter what many believe is a flawed state-funding formula.
“We made a decision that the legislature was going to do this anyway,” DeWine said of his plan, which does not include a new formula to fund day-to-day operations for K-12 education. It simply takes what schools are getting this year and gives them the same amount in each of the next two years.
He’s right. The House plans to unveil a major rewrite of the state’s funding formula in six days, following months of work by a group of 16 public-school officials led by Reps. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and John Patterson, D-Jefferson.
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DeWine focused all new money on targeted “student wellness and success” funding — $250 million next year, and $300 million in 2021 — for schools to spend on mental-health counseling, mentoring, wraparound supports and after-school programs.
“It comes directly from what I have been hearing from teachers for years, and that is they want to teach in the classroom, but they are dealing with these other problems,” DeWine said Friday after his budget-plan rollout. “Our argument is, we know that poor kids take more money.”
Patterson said he sees DeWine’s budget as a great start and “quite compatible with our work.”
“I was pleased that there is recognition of the needs that our students have statewide. That was apparent in his proposal,” the legislator said.
Cupp and Patterson are attempting to create a fairer formula that determines the cost of a quality education and takes steps to reduce Ohio’s pervasive achievement gap in education — a gap tied to poverty.
“I think the governor has hit the three key things that most people believe is the key to reducing the achievement gap,” Cupp said, referring to wraparound services, behavior interventions and early-childhood education. “Of course, reducing the achievement gap isn’t the only thing we need to do with school funding.”
The distribution of new “student wellness” money in DeWine’s plan is based on concentrations of poverty. The average district gets $150 per pupil in 2020, and $180 in 2021.
In 2020, big urban districts would see an average of $194 per pupil, followed in amount by $175 for the poorest rural districts. Meanwhile, the wealthiest suburban districts would average $87 per pupil.
Under DeWine’s formula, 122 Ohio districts — about 1 in 5 — that have a poverty concentration of at least 51 percent would get the maximum $250 per pupil this year, and $300 in 2021.
For example, Grandview Heights, with the second-lowest concentration of poverty in the state at 2.5 percent, would get $20.88 per pupil in 2020. Columbus and Whitehall, with the 28th- and 29th-highest concentrations of poverty (64 percent), would get the full $250 per pupil next year, as would Groveport Madison and Hamilton Township.
On a percentage basis, Upper Arlington would get the largest increase in Franklin County: 9 percent over two years. That’s a reflection of the district getting only about $400 per pupil in basic foundation funding.
On the other end, Hilliard and Reynoldsburg would see the smallest increases: about 2 percent over two years.
DeWine’s budget also would increase school-choice funding by 45 percent next year.
That includes $30 million each year for a new “School of Quality” program that would pay certain charter schools an additional $1,750 per pupil for low-income students and $1,000 for others.
To qualify, a school must score better than its local district on the state performance index two years in a row, score at least a “B” on the state’s “value added” measure, serve a student body in which at least half the children are low-income, and have a sponsor rated at least “effective.”
“It’s too often easy to ignore the most vulnerable Ohioans,” said Chad Aldis, a school-choice advocate who is vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. “Gov. DeWine has taken the opposite approach by focusing on low-income students needing additional supports and services to reach their potential.”