The Ohio House Finance Committee spent the spring brushing up on the basics of the school funding system. The House plans several regional hearings on the issue during the summer break. When it comes to funding public education, it is hard to say Ohio legislators have not done due diligence in one aspect: studying the issue.
Since the Ohio Supreme Court first ruled the state’s funding system unconstitutional, a succession of governors and legislators have promised earnestly to come up with a plan that would fix funding inequities and ease the burden on property owners — just as soon as they have heard what the experts and assorted stakeholders say.
It isn’t for lack of studies that school districts across Ohio still are short on funds and face frequent ballot wars with local taxpayers. Soon after the 1997 DeRolph decision, Gov. George Voinovich and legislators offered the Augenblick “successful schools” model, which used spending levels in academically successful districts as the basis for adequate funding.
Bob Taft’s team favored a “building blocks” model, paying attention to key elements of education. On his turn, Ted Strickland staged statewide listening tours and presented the “evidence-based” model. John Kasich promptly scrapped it for a “bridge formula” on taking office, promising his own comprehensive model. “When we get it right, we’ll let you know,” the director of the Governor’s Office of 21st Century Education said last summer.
Ohioans and their school districts must wonder how long the Statehouse will plow the same ground and come up short of a durable solution.