COLUMBUS: Gov. John Kasich on Monday released the first details of his proposed budget for schools, and the picture remains as murky as it did last week when he unveiled some of his general ideas to school officials.
A full 7 percent of the funding to traditional school districts — about $464 million — that is designed to protect them from reductions in state aid will be phased out starting in 2015. Some of that money will find its way back into the funding formula, but details of how that will all work have yet to be released.
The Office of Budget and Management said funding for individual districts likely will be available later this week.
Unlike the current funding mechanism that for years has assumed local districts were raising between 20 and 23 mills of property taxes, Kasich’s unique funding plan assumes a much higher contribution from property taxes to achieve maximum funding.
The formula is based on two calculations. The first allows districts, regardless of property wealth, to raise as much revenue that a district with $250,000 per pupil would raise at 20 mills. The next calculation adds additional state funds, called targeted resources, to districts that have low incomes and property values. As property values and incomes increase, targeted resource funding decreases.
As the explanation of school funding was introduced by his aides at the nearly two-hour briefing, Kasich jumped to the podium to address the issue of constitutionality.
“Let’s be clear about this: This is an effort that has in fact been tested to be constitutional, and had been found to be constitutionally sound,” he said. “And let me also say it is fully funded, something that these other plans never were. They were smoke and mirrors.”
The totals for school funding that were revealed last week also came into clearer view.
The governor’s state budget carves out nearly $10.5 billion for education in 2014. That figure last week was said to be a 5.9 percent increase from the previous year.
However, the budget numbers showed that a new program announced last week that would serve the severely handicapped was counted twice by funding it in one account, then transferring it to another. The effect of that double count in the “Exceptional Cost Reimbursement” fund made school funding look $111.5 million higher than it is in the first year, and $119.5 million more in the second year.
Kasich says that overall spending will be up $1.3 billion in the next two-year budget compared with the last two-year budget. That doesn’t make up for the $1.6 billion in cuts he made in his first budget, and it’s not clear whether the double-counting of $231 million in special education funds is included in his numbers.
Budget director Tim Keen said there is double counting of other funds in the budget, but the Exceptional Cost Reimbursement was the largest.
The effect of that was to reduce the budget increase from 2013 to 2014 from the 5.9 percent discussed last week to 4.9 percent.
On the guaranteed funds, the governor’s budget proposed a phaseout of 10 percent in the second year. Guaranteed funds have sustained revenue for districts that would have otherwise lost state aid.
Barbara Mattei-Smith, Kasich’s education funding analyst, clarified that the reduction isn’t really a phaseout, but a natural change in the formula. As the guaranteed funds are eliminated, much of that money will be redirected to special education, targeted funds for poorer school districts and other needs.
The budget shows a huge increase in lottery revenues due to the introduction of slot machines at racetracks.
In the first year, the budget includes an increase of $141 million for schools from slots, and an increase of another $133 million in the second year.
That new money will go into basic aid, a $100 million Straight A fund for innovation grants in the first year and $200 million the second. There also is an additional $15 million for school choice the first year and $24.5 million in the second.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.