New school funding plan to help poor districts compete
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)
Ohio Gov. John Kasich unveiled a school-funding overhaul on Thursday that he said is aimed at helping students in poor districts compete while introducing changes meant to reward and highlight innovation.
The Republican governor’s long-awaited plan would boost districts that are lagging behind in property values and household incomes. Kasich education advisers said no schools would see reduced funding next year under the current formula, to allow them time to adjust. A special fund with $300 million in additional money would be created to reward districts for innovation and efficiency.
“This is a plan that says that every student in any part of the state, regardless of what kind of district they come from, should be given the resources to be able to compete with a child across the state,” Kasich said before a meeting Thursday afternoon to brief school superintendents on the plan.
The plan dubbed “Achievement Everywhere” also means to help districts with the extra costs of special-needs students, to provide more school choice, such as expanding vouchers for parents to move children from low-performing schools to private ones. There is also funding help planned for districts with high levels of poverty where students don’t have access to preschool programs, and other aid to help them reach Ohio’s new third grade reading proficiency target.
There are also steps to increase transparency about school efficiency and performance, and to encourage districts to learn from the successes of comparable districts. Kasich advisers said funding changes would bring all schools up to the tax base level of a district with $250,000 in property value per student, a figure they said was at the 96th percentile of districts statewide, and direct dollars away from administration costs into the classroom.
Kasich told school administrators that while he knew many were worried about cuts, the state’s financial stewardship allows more funding which he said his administration wants to be sure benefits students directly.
“We want to get those dollars into the classroom,” Kasich said.
Kasich aides said state formula funding for K-12 districts would rise nearly 6 percent in fiscal year 2014, and 3.2 percent the next year. School budgets have been pounded by declines in other revenue sources, including the end of federal stimulus dollars, the phasing out of a state business tax and declining property values in many areas.
The governor planned an online town hall at 6 p.m. allowing members of the public to submit questions. School funding decisions for Ohio’s 613 school districts and 353 charter schools are likely to affect many tax bills, home values and the quality of the education children receive.
The long-awaited plan is expected to kick off months of debate over Ohio’s educational direction.