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The biggest losers in Tuesday’s election: Ohio’s school students



Published: Sat, November 9, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Taxed-off residents of the Mahoning Valley: 9

Public school districts in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties: 1

That scorecard of results from school levies in the Mahoning Valley in Tuesday’s general election reflects a failure rate of 90 percent for the 10 Valley districts seeking additional local tax dollars to operate. The one levy that did eke out a victory in Canfield did so by a razor-thin 50.4 percent margin, according to unofficial results from the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

The statewide scorecard shows slightly brighter results, but Ohio school districts and their students remain the biggest losers. Throughout Ohio, only 36 percent of 116 additional property tax, income tax or bond issues garnered voter approval. Fortunately for the solvency of many districts, voters approved all six renewal levies in the Valley this week — meaning no new taxes — and 97 percent of school renewals statewide.

Nonetheless, the enormously high rejection rate for new funding is disturbing. School districts can only pinch so many pennies before academics and finances become seriously endangered.

The increasing pace of additional school levy requests and heightened voter rejection of them statewide should serve as a wake-up call to Ohio education leaders and legislators to fix Ohio’s dysfunctional education system once and for all.

According to the Ohio School Boards Association, since 2003, the total number of school levies in the state has declined. But the rate at which additional levies — those that would raise new taxes — have been sought has doubled. Ten years ago, less than 33 percent of school levies sought additional revenue. Since 2010, that percentage has risen to about 66 percent.

Part of the problem rests with the state’s antiquated and dysfunctional method of funding its public schools. That system was declared unconstitutional several times over the past 16 years, and despite some minor tune-ups, it remains busted. Overreliance of the local property tax has created unequal schools. Rich school districts with high property values provide better education than poor districts with low values. Tuesday’s election results reinforced the failures of that system.

But as witnessed by the rejection Tuesday of additional levies in school districts such as Howland and Columbiana and the close call in Canfield, even voters in relatively affluent school districts say they’ve had enough of digging deeper into their pockets to bail out education.

Ohio relies on local taxes to finance about 50 percent of public-school operations, greater than the U.S. average of 43 percent and far greater than that of other states, such as a 3.5 percent local share in Hawaii or 7.8 percent in Vermont.

UNFUNDED MANDATES HURT

State government also does local school districts no favors when mandating new programs without backing up those mandates with sufficient resources to fund them. In recent years, for example, Ohio has required expensive technological improvements for online testing, rigid Common Core curriculum upgrades, a third-grade “reading guarantee,” higher retention standards, new teacher evaluation programs and other reforms aimed at raising achievement standards of Ohio’s students.

While such mandates may benefit learning, without the resources to adequately fund them, school districts face the prospect of falling deeper and deeper into the red, as the increasing number of districts falling into state-monitored fiscal watch or fiscal emergency illustrates.

Clearly the crisis in Ohio school funding first exposed in the landmark 1997 DeRolph vs. Ohio case has not eased. To avoid an implosion in school budgets and academic quality, it is incumbent upon state leaders to commit themselves to meaningful and tangible reform. Until they do, Ohio’s constitutional guarantee to provide “a thorough and efficient system of common schools’’ will remain seriously imperiled.


Comments

1CompManRetired(29 comments)posted 8 months ago

Vindy is correct that the time has come to address state funding to local school systems that has been declared unconstitutional by the state’s highest court. The supers, boards and Ohio School Board Association (professional not a state organization) need to address this with Columbus and not with taxpayers. The straw that broke the taxpayers back was the elimination of the 12.5% property tax rollback for homeowners on new and replacement levies; that also affects safety services, roads etc. Renewals are not affected that is why many in Ohio passed. Wait for a sneak February or May levy to reject the current funding methods again. We are also watching for school income tax levies as an add on to the current taxes paid. I urge all taxpayer to be informed of the difference of "traditional" vs "earned income" school income tax levies. The Vindy can help there with column of explanation. Finally, newly minted seniors over $30,000 in income will no long be eligible for the Homestead Exemption which on average resulted in $400 of property tax relief.

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2questionreality(199 comments)posted 8 months ago

With information like this at hand, what else can you expect:

http://www.buckeyeinstitute.org/artic...

Parochial school teachers are making considerably less while their pension plans are tacitly threatened. And they still go to work with at least a semblance of enthusiasm.

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3repeaters(191 comments)posted 8 months ago

Why would the Vindicator quote a group that perpetuates its self, whose 'code of ethics' and 'oath of office' is password protected ??? I READ your editorials and get you newspaper DAILY, and this is one of the worst. Under the topic of 'unfunded mandates hurts', your asking taxpayers to pay more for what 'mandates' the schools are suppose to be doing all along; but alas, no one in the school system does anything for free. The taxpayer/homeowner cannot carry the load any more; it has become entirely to heavy. You should know that by the economic conditions in the valley and your subscription/circulation rate. State monies returning to the schools come from taxpayers; the tax break from the homestead act is reimbursed to the schools by the state. They never lost that funding. Yet in the past, prior to the state cutting some monies to the districts; did we not still have levies on the ballot? When is enough. enough; NEVER. Go to recovery.gov, type in your zip code, and see how your stimulus and ARRA monies were spent. For the paper to say that only rich school districts with high taxes achieve excellent ratings is plain wrong. They have contradicted themselves in print. Encouraging voters to build new schools in areas of declining enrollment was wrong. You as a newspaper, have to do better than what you printed today, instead of being a spokesperson for the Ohio School Board Association. You owe it to the communities and your readers.

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