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Schools support funding proposal

A school funding formula that could — for the first time — make the state’s formula constitutional and also would stabilize funding in Ohio’s 611 school districts will be discussed 6:30 p.m. Monday at Lordstown High School.

Ohio’s school funding formula is affected by a 1997 Ohio Supreme Court decision, DeRolph v. State, a landmark case in Ohio constitutional law, in which the court ruled that the state’s method for funding public education was unconstitutional. The justices ordered that the state government “enact a constitutional school-funding system.”

The Ohio Schools Fair Funding Formula would eliminate a program that prevents approximately 166 school districts from receiving the full amount of money they are qualified to receive under the current funding system, according to Lordstown Superintendent Terry Armstrong.

One of the writers of the plan, Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, will lead Monday’s discussion.

If approved, Fair Funding Formula supporters believe it will fulfill the constitutional requirements required by the state Supreme Court. It was written by Rep. Robert Cupp, R-Lima, and Patterson, and has 66 co-sponsors in the Ohio House.

The representatives are pushing a funding bill that would be based on the estimated cost of providing an education to each student and the population size of each district.

Discussions about the proposed funding system took place in Ohio House’s finance committee Wednesday.

ACTUAL COST

School funding would be determined by the actual cost to educate students today, including direct classroom instruction, which accounts for 60 percent of the cost; instructional and student support, 15 percent; building operation and leadership, 20 percent; and district leadership and accountability, 5 percent.

Each district’s local share will be based on a combination of property value and other income factors, according to the plan. Other factors, such as transportation, poverty, special education needs and technology also will be considered.

Boardman Superintendent Tim Saxton likes the fact that House members gathered together education experts, including school treasurers, superintendents, and business managers.

“The per student amount assigned today is just a number,” Saxton said. “Under the Fair Funding Formula, you understand how they determine the per student amount.”

Based on the current formula, school districts receive $6,020 per student in state foundation funds. Based on whether the district is capped or is provided an guaranteed amount, however, the state’s per student allocation may be smaller or larger.

“Two of the items that would be eliminated under this funding plan would be the cap placed on some districts, such as Lordstown, and guaranteed funding levels given to other districts,” Armstrong said.

CAPPED DISTRICTS

Capped districts do not receive all of the dollars they are qualified to receive under the current funding formula that determines how much each school district receives from the state.

Armstrong said Lordstown School District, for example, receives approximately 60 percent fewer dollars than it would have received if not a capped district.

Other Trumbull and Mahoning county school districts that are capped include Boardman, which receives about 74 percent of the funding; Howland, which gets about 94 percent; Weathersfield, 96 percent; Campbell, 98 percent; and Struthers, 98 percent.

Under the current funding formula, Lordstown was supposed to receive $1.87 million in the 2018 school year. However, because it is a capped district, Armstrong said it received $1.13 million in state funds.

Because of the cap, Lordstown receives $2,320 per student in state funds compared to the $3,873 in state funds that it would receive if awarded its full share of state funds under the current funding formula.

Armstrong describes the current formula as broken because, in his view, 82 percent of the state’s districts do not receive the fund amounts they are supposed to due to funding guarantees and caps on the districts

“The Fair Funding Formula is based on research, best practices and addresses what it actually costs in 2019 to provide an education and necessary support services to students in our districts,” Armstrong said. “No one has ever been able to tell me why we are capped.”

FUNDING PROPOSAL

Under the funding proposal being considered by the Ohio House, Lordstown will receive approximately $1.6 million in fiscal year 2020 and and $1.8 million in fiscal year 2021.

LaBrae Superintendent A. J. Calderone said his district has for the last two years been under the guaranteed program, which provides a guarantee it will receive a set amount every year.

“It is less than what we received before being placed under the program,” Calderone said.

LaBrae is having a community forum on school funding at 7 p.m., Oct. 28, at the high school.

LaBrae received $7,898,190 from the state in fiscal year 2019. according to Calderone. In the current fiscal year, the funding is scheduled to be 7,876,759, he said..

“We had been receiving $8.3 million before the state reduced our amount,” Calderone said. “We are receiving less money in recent years because we, like other districts in the region, have experienced (student) population declines.

“In the last year, the population has stabilized,” he said.

“Currently, Ohio does not have a funding plan, but a distribution formula,” Calderone said. “Over the last eight years, the state has made some budgetary decisions that have negatively impacted schools and local governments.

“The current funding formula is over reliant on property taxes,” he said. “This attempts to address that by focusing on the actual cost of educating a child.”