Cuts in state funding for pub- lic schools and the diversion of funds from public school districts to charter schools and voucher programs have been a fact of life in Ohio for years.
While politicians in Columbus have boasted about their success in balancing the state’s budget, much of the burden has been shifted to local governmental entities. While the General Assembly has pursued a decade-long effort to expand charter schools and voucher programs — often with no evidence that these programs were improving education in the state one whit — local and city school districts throughout the state have struggled to make up their losses.
This trend has been particularly costly for well-off suburban school districts. They may get only $2,500 per pupil from the state, but they lose $5,700 from their state allotment for every student who transfers to a charter school or one of the e-schools that provide students with a computer and online support for independent study.
Those kind of losses add up fast, especially at a time when the state is making other cuts and when the cost of doing business — from salaries, to utilities to gasoline for school buses — is increasing.
There’s some evidence that local taxpayers are coming to recognize that the financial squeeze is threatening the quality of education in their communities.
Ohio voters passed more than half the school funding levies on ballots statewide. The Ohio School Boards Association said that 105 funding levies were approved by voters Tuesday, while 87 were rejected.
But renewal issues did much better than those seeking additional funding. Just 37 percent of the 122 requests for new tax dollars passed.
In Mahoning County, three of five school levies seeking additional funds were approved, a 60 percent rate.
Boardman voters approved a 3.9-mill, three-year additional emergency operating levy that will generate $3,178,231. Superintendent Frank Lazzeri noted that the district has lost $15.4 million in state funding over the past 10 years. Even with the additional local money, some cuts are likely in the future.
Poland Local School District voters approved a 5.9-mill, five-year additional emergency operating levy that will generate $2,181,867 annually. That district has lost $5.5 million in state revenue over five years and was facing a budget deficit at the 2013-14 school year.
Youngstown voters also approved an important 10.4-mill renewal levy for their schools, and in South Range a 2.4-mill renewal levy passed.
But voters in Springfield rejected a bond issue, and voters in Jackson-Mitlon rejected both an additional and a renewal levy for the schools.
Clearly school boards and school administrators continue to face challenges when asking voters during tough times to approve tax issues.
In Trumbull County, only Mathews Schools passed an additional levy while Brookfield and Champion rejected theirs. Renewals were approved in Howland and Joseph Badger districts.
Voters in both counties, however, showed that despite the tough economic times, people care about those among us who are most vulnerable.
In Mahoning County renewal issues were approved to treat those with tuberculosis and related diseases; to fund Children Services and to continue Western Reserve Transit Authority service. In Trumbull County voters approved a renewal levy supporting the Fairhaven program.