Dan Sewell

Fewer dollars for Ohio schools has meant fewer teachers in classrooms in many districts across the state.

State records show the number of full-time teachers in public schools fell by nearly 6 percent over a decade ending in the 2010-11 school year, and surveys by education associations and the Associated Press indicate the downward trend has continued the past two school years. There’s little expectation of immediate improvement as districts grapple with reduced state funding, declines in property tax revenue and voter reluctance in many districts to approve new levies as households slowly recover from the Great Recession.

“There’s no bright light on the horizon,” said Damon Asbury of the Ohio School Boards Association. “Schools will continue to do more with less.”

The results of cuts for many schools: more students per teacher, fewer electives in areas such as foreign languages and arts classes, and reduced support staff.

Gov. John Kasich and his administration have urged schools to focus their dollars on classroom instruction, raise standards such as lower-elementary reading proficiency, and to stretch their budgets by pooling resources in such areas as technology, office functions and transportation.

“We do need to manage our schools better financially,” the Republican governor said in June while signing an education reform package including a “guarantee” that third-graders will be able to read before being passed ahead.

Personnel costs are usually the major portion of a district’s budget, so any significant budget cuts usually mean job losses. The state School Boards Association surveyed districts this year and, with 268 of the state’s 613 districts responding, found they have reduced staff by an average of 13 full-time employees each since 2008.