Ohio legislature Kasich budget proposal includes cuts to shrinking school districts
By Marc Kovac
Gov. John Kasich’s budget director is hopeful the Legislature will move an executive budget school-funding proposal that would send less state money to some school districts that have lost students.
The governor has offered comparable law changes in the past, but lawmakers have balked at the move.
But Tim Keen, director of Ohio’s Office of Budget and Management, said: “I think we have the best opportunity we have had in a long time to get this guarantee proposal adopted into law. I think we have targeted it and crafted it in such a way that it just makes sense. If you lost an appreciable number of students, why should we continue to pay you the same amount of money that we previously did?”
Keen offered the comments after Kasich rolled out his proposed spending plan for the next two fiscal years.
On Friday, OBM released spreadsheets noting projected funding levels for the state’s 600-plus school districts. The numbers aren’t set in stone – they’re estimates used as part of the budget process, with actual totals determined later after taking into account local valuations, student enrollment and other factors.
The governor said earlier this week that he is proposing a $200 million increase in funding for primary and secondary schools over the biennium. But that doesn’t mean all districts will receive more money next year than they did during the current school year.
Additionally, the governor has proposed lowering the guarantee base districts receive if schools lost more than 5 percent of their student population.
Those that have grown or lost up to 5 percent would be guaranteed the same funding total they are receiving this fiscal year. Those that have lost more than 5 percent would see that guarantee drop to, at most, 95 percent of the current year total.
“Just go out on the street and take a poll of people,” Keen said. “This district lost 17 percent of its kids, should we pay it the same amount of money that we did last year. ... Where else in the world would that happen but in school funding? ... What would the man on the street say? I think that’s the test the members of the general assembly ought to use to judge.”
He added, “If there are fewer kids, why are we paying the same amount of money to educate them?”
Keen also said for many districts projected to see decreases in the formula funding, the totals aren’t that large.
Of the 346 districts in that category, 187 would see a decrease of less than $100,000, he said, adding that 71 of those would see a reduction of less than $5,000.
“A lot of these numbers are very small,” he said.
Youngstown City Schools – which has lost 746 students, or 7.2 percent, from 2011 to 2016 – is predicted to experience only a 0.3 percent loss in state funding for 2017 to 2018, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
The city school district’s CEO, Krish Mohip, is not deterred.
He said it is evident that the governor cares about helping students reach their full potential.
“He showed his support for education by again making it the highest priority in his budget,” Mohip said. “How to best allocate state resources is an important conversation. ... We should all consider the value of sending resources to where the kids are.”
Canfield Superintendent Alex Geordan mirrored Mohip’s optimism.
“Why shouldn’t government support success?” Geordan said.
Canfield is predicted to experience only a 0.2 percent loss in state funding for 2017 to 2018. From 2011 to 2016, the district lost 206 students, or 6.7 percent.
“We are looking to grow as a district and offer more,” Geordan said. “Why not support school districts who do well?”
Contributors: Staff writers Amanda Tonoli and Justin Wier