By Marc Kovac
The treasurer of a Mahoning County district urged state lawmakers Wednesday to increase state funding for local schools.
James Phillips, chief financial officer for the South Range Local School District, told the Ohio House’s finance committee that his district has been forced to cut staff and reduce teacher ranks to deal with budget cuts in recent years.
“Although I have no scientific evidence to absolutely link funding with the success we have enjoyed at South Range, it is not unreasonable to suggest that fewer teachers, tutors and aides has had a negative impact in the last year or two,” he said. “We know how to successfully teach children. It takes people.”
Phillips offered testimony on the state’s biennial budget bill, which is headed for a floor vote next week in the House.
The House GOP amended Gov. John Kasich’s initial school-funding package earlier in the week, effectively increasing funding for more school districts while ensuring others receive no less than they have in the current fiscal year.
Phillips said the changes are an improvement over the governor’s proposal, but he said his and other districts are still coping with funding cuts that have dropped South Range to 2005 levels and some $2.5 million lost to charter and community schools and open enrollment.
“We have not replaced four teachers that retired in the past two years,” he said. “We have laid off all of our 15 tutors. We laid off fifteen educational aides only to have called back six or seven due to student Individual Educational Plan requirements.”
Citing the state’s improving economy and increasing tax collections, Phillips said further cuts to public schools are unnecessary.
“I hope this body will reconsider all of the successes that Ohio’s public educational systems have provided and adequately continue to fund our success in the next biennium and beyond,” he said.