The majority of Ohio and area school districts would get less state funding, while charter schools would get more, in Gov. John Kasich’s proposed changes to the state funding formula, according to an independent analysis by the Legislative Service Commission.
The nonpartisan research arm of the legislature used Kasich’s proposed formula and found that 460 of Ohio’s 612 school districts would lose a portion of their state support to charter schools under Kasich’s rewrite of the formula.
The additional money is made available partly by reducing the basic aid to schools — the amount ascribed to a basic education for all children — and redirecting it to programs that benefit charters, which are privately run, often by for-profit companies.
Under the current system, traditional public school districts are supported both by state funding and local taxes. Each time a child leaves the district to attend a charter school, the state transfers the dollars necessary for that child to the charter school.
In Akron, the district would have paid an additional $1.7 million, or 7 percent, above the $25.6 million paid this year under the current formula. Canton’s loss, by percentages, would have been one of the largest in the state: a 15 percent change, or $910,332.
The list provided by the Legislative Service Commission shows that, in general, the districts poised to take the largest percentage hits were among the state’s poorest. Among them is Southern Local in Perry County, one of the districts that 20 years ago launched the landmark DeRolph school-funding lawsuit, which said that public schools are inadequately and unequally funded.
On the charter-school side of the equation, the 26 Summit Academy charter schools, headquartered in Akron, ranked among the top benefactors in the governor’s proposal and illustrate how the changes in the formula worked to the detriment of public schools.
Summit Academy schools specialize in children with low-level learning disabilities. They qualify for special education funding, and often receive state aid of $14,000 to $18,000 per pupil, according to state records.
Asked for comment, a receptionist for Summit Academy said that most school officers were in Columbus on Thursday afternoon, and she “was told to relay the message that we have no comment at this time.”
According to the commission data, only five charter schools in the five-county Akron-Canton area were likely to see a reduction in funding, and three of those are not privately run, but are sponsored by public school districts.
The redistribution of funds is made possible by Kasich’s proposal to reduce basic aid per pupil from $5,700 to $5,000.
The number of dollars contained in basic aid was a critical factor in the DeRolph case as the Ohio Supreme Court attempted to define the cost of an adequate education for a typical child.
In 2002, the court dropped its oversight of the case.
By reducing that number, Kasich is directing large increases in special education and gifted funding, which appear to flow disproportionately to charter schools.
In the commission analysis, the bottom line statewide is that $35 million is shifted from school districts to charter schools. That does not include an additional $12 million Kasich proposes for charters to assist them in facilities costs.
In addition, the state qualifies its estimates by pointing out that as charter school enrollment grows, the effects on school districts could “vary significantly.”
“It’s kind of tough to do projections,” said former state Rep. Steve Dyer, who devised the previous school funding formula under Gov. Ted Strickland and now is the education policy adviser for Innovation Ohio, a Columbus nonprofit that advocates for public schools.
“Obviously there’s going to be a lot more going to charter schools,” said Dyer, who also was a Beacon Journal reporter. “We’re looking at serious, serious additional dollars.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.