Ann Sanner

COLUMBUS: Majority Republicans in the Ohio Senate proposed an education funding plan on Thursday that they said spreads more money to more school districts, as they look to leave their mark on the spending blueprint.

The Senate plan would increase state spending on K-12 education in the two-year budget by more than $717 million compared to the current budget, which ends June 30.

Schools would see an additional $141.6 million in direct state aid under the GOP-controlled Senate plan, compared to the funding formula the House passed in its version of the budget bill.

Senate President Keith Faber told reporters the money stems from expected adjustments to state revenue and Medicaid caseload projections.

“It is a significant investment across the spectrum,” said Faber, a Celina Republican.

Faber cautioned that the education proposal is still a work in progress. Additional changes could come Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee. A full Senate vote on the budget is planned for June 6.

Senators also added $54 million to help schools meet a state mandate that students must know how to read before leaving third grade. Early childhood education would also see an additional $30 million over the budget period.

State aid school districts get for each student would see a boost compared to Gov. John Kasich’s proposed figures — up from Kasich’s $5,000 per student to $5,745 in the first year and $5,800 in the second year of the budget.

The Senate is also considering whether to set aside another $50 million for the governor’s proposed Straight A fund, which will deliver grants to districts for innovation and efficiency measures.

The chairman of the Senate finance panel’s education subcommittee said senators planned to continue to evaluate changes to the Straight A fund over the weekend.

“We believe we can add to that in a meaningful way to provide real opportunities for change and innovation in our local public schools,” said Sen. Randy Gardner, a Bowling Green Republican.

Under the House version of the budget, district funding increases would be capped to 6 percent each year. But the Senate’s plan would change that cap to 6.25 percent in the first year of the budget, and a 10.5 percent in the second year.

State Sen. Chris Widener, a Springfield Republican, said senators found that by using higher caps, they could equalize even more dollars to all districts.