Gov. John Kasich’s office rolled out spreadsheets Wednesday showing how much money school districts will receive under his new funding formula, and the resounding conclusion was confusion.
Suburban, growing districts with above-average property wealth appear to enjoy large increases in state funding, while nearly three out of every five districts will see no increase in state aid over the next two years. Some of those poor districts include southeastern Ohio schools in Perry County where the landmark DeRolph case originated. That case resulted in four Ohio Supreme Court decisions that deemed school funding as inequitable, inadequate and unconstitutional.
In addition, there were new revelations about the formula Wednesday afternoon.
Barbara Mattei-Smith, education analyst for the governor, said the formula will change in the second year, but they have not run simulations to see how school districts would be affected once the formula is fully implemented, nor have they decided how many years they will take to fully implement the formula.
“We haven’t projected out to see what will happen when fully implemented,” she said.
She also said there has been no study to determine whether Kasich’s plan — billed as equitable — is any more or less equitable than the previous funding plan under Gov. Ted Strickland.
The complex methodology, based partly on property wealth for basic funding and then property and income wealth for additional aid, sends some districts into gyrations.
Medina City Schools, for example, are expected to receive a 2.9 percent increase in the first year, or about $478,000, but in the second year the formula suggests that Medina would be overfunded and that state aid would be reduced by $228,000 over time.
In addition, the numbers provided by the state don’t separate charter school funding or the cost of children leaving a public school to attend a private school on a publicly funded voucher.
That means that urban schools in particular are still in the dark about what they will receive.
Akron, for example, looks like it will receive a $4.2 million increase in the first year to $149.5 million, but in reality the district is more likely to receive about $110 million after charter school, open enrollment and voucher deductions — and its funding increase is unknown.
“We still don’t know all the factors that went into coming up with these figures,” said Jack Pierson, Akron Public Schools treasurer.
Pierson is also concerned about limitations on how he can spend the money he receives. Hundreds of thousands of additional dollars are allocated for specific funds like an additional $370,000 targeted for gifted and talented children and $200,000 for early childhood access. Will he be required to spend that additional $570,000 on those programs, whether warranted or not?
The frustration with the funding plan was evident in a conference call Wednesday evening as reporters asked pointed questions about the governor’s many assertions that this funding plan would equalize education opportunities, and that funding for rich and poor districts would be leveled.
Pierson was perplexed that the wealthy Olentangy Local School District outside of Columbus receives a 332 percent funding increase in state aid in the governor’s first year while Akron, with half the property valuation per pupil, would only receive a modest 2.9 percent increase.
“How is that equitable?” said Pierson, who eyes his increase with skepticism.
The governor’s office defended increases for affluent districts like Olentangy and New Albany-Plain Local Schools, the state’s highest districts in median income.
Mattei-Smith said these districts are receiving large increases based on enrollment increases over the past four or five years that have outpaced revenue increases.
“We’re really trying to catch up to four years of adjustments at one time,” Mattei-Smith said.
Locally, Woodridge stands to gain the most. The district’s enrollment has declined 5 percent since 2008 and the community has one of the highest property valuations per pupil in the state at $223,514. The state will increase funding for Woodridge by 129 percent in the governor’s first year and 25 percent in the second year.
Mattei-Smith, who last week called the funding plan a distribution of wealth, said that this formula does not take from the rich. “It is not about taking money from anyone.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.