The Ohio Senate unveiled its school funding plan Thursday with accompanying spreadsheets showing how individual districts would be affected, but it left some analysts and fellow lawmakers wondering where the money will come from.
Most Akron-area school districts look as though they will receive additional money in the Senate version, but there was no explanation of what was included in the funding.
The Senate’s school funding plan increases the base per pupil amount from $5,732 in the House’s version to $5,745 in the first year and $5,800 in the second year of the biennium budget plan.
The increase requires about $122 million more in the Senate’s budget then the House had proposed, a Beacon Journal analysis found.
However, a budget spreadsheet showing total education spending doesn't reflect the increase, instead showing the Senate proposing to spend $300,000 less than the House.
Lawmakers who unveiled the funding plan made reference to additional revenue estimates in the General Fund that could provide increased education spending, but details have been withheld as the Senate rolls out a rewrite of the budget bill that originated with the governor and already has passed through the House. The current budget expires June 30.
The new document is expected next week, and senators are expected to be asked to take quick a vote.
“This is a blurry process at best at this juncture,” said Sen. Tom Sawyer, an Akron Democrat and ranking minority member on the Senate Education Committee.
Sawyer returned from a full day of testimony and did not yet have a chance to review the funding information, which was released Thursday afternoon.
Sawyer fears, as he had voiced months earlier, that necessary information will not be made available “until literally the day the bill comes to the floor.”
“I think they’re hurrying,” echoed Dave Varda, executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.
Varda and Sawyer said that more information is needed on the formula, which lifts the ceiling on percentage increases for individual school districts from 6 to 6.25 percent in the first year. It is unclear if the formula for basic aid, like the House version, included transportation and career tech funding, which account for hundreds of millions of dollars.
When the House released its version, that information was made clear.
“That’s the thing that was nice when the House put up the spreadsheets,” Varda said. “Evidently the rest of the spreadsheets won’t be available until next week.”
Varda said increases to the base amount would benefit charter schools as a higher dollar amount would follow students who leave public school districts, but little else is known.
There were provisions in the House and Senate versions that would negate some of the increases by taking money back from public school districts and transferring it to charter and private schools. The impact of those changes can't be discerned from any of the spreadsheets delivered by the House or Senate.
The bill also proposes an additional $30 million for early childhood education over the biennium and reinstates some funding for Gov. John Kasich’s Straight A Fund that was cut by the House.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.