SCHOOL FUNDING REFORM UNDER CONSIDERATION
By Bill Perry
Legislation introduced by State Representative Andrew Brenner (R- Powell) would alter the way Ohio funds public schools, giving parents and students more flexibility in their choices. H.B. 102 would create a new state school funding system, that ultimately would need to be approved by voters before taking effect.
“It’s about the money following the student and deregulating education,” Brenner emphasized. “Everybody wants to see deregulation in all of the schools. The only way that happens is to allow the money to follow the student, whether the choice is a charter school or traditional public.”
Ohio would still follow education requirements established at the federal level. Brenner said his proposal would require applicable testing to measure results. “The check and balance is the parent. It gives total say where their kids go to school.” Brenner said his proposal is ultimately where he wants to move the system. “Do this and then Ohio will have a system that is truly a check and balance,” he said.
Provisions of H.B. 102 as currently proposed would require:
Specific amount per student, initially set at $8,270, with 70 percent of that amount for a student attending an Internet- or computer-based community school or e-school.
In addition, specified amounts would follow gifted students, and categorical funding based on whether the student is economically disadvantaged, in grades K-3, special education or a limited English proficient student.
Each public school and chartered nonpublic school would receive a graduation bonus, third-grade reading proficiency bonus, gifted unit funding, and categorical funding based on whether the student is enrolled in a career-technical education program offered by the school.
When fully implemented in 2021, an Ohio student could attend any public or chartered nonpublic school.
A school district would be required to maintain the necessary capacity to admit resident students, and have space to admit students who are residents of other districts.
Requires educational service centers to transport students on a countywide basis and provides transportation funding to service centers rather than school districts.
H.B. 102 Gets a Hearing
Late last year, the House Financial Committee held hearings on the legislation and heard from proponents. Ron Adler, president of the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, highlighted transportation in his testimony before the Committee.
"With more than 600 school districts, 376 community schools and hundreds of private schools, transporting students efficiently and safely has become more and more difficult,” he told the committee. “Over the years, there has been a growing divide between the ‘public only’ transportation advocates and those supporting transportation of all students. That would include public school students in charter schools, public school students in traditional schools and students of tax-paying parents who attend private schools.”
Adler said H.B. 102 would eliminate these turf wars and puts the needs and the rights of students first. “It eliminates the more than 600 ‘football fields’ of yellow school buses throughout the state which are increasingly costly to maintain and replaces them with common sense, countywide transportation districts administrated by our 52 Educational Service Centers. This has the potential to create a system that would correct many of today’s transportation problems. Ohio students and their parents deserve that.”
Doug Mead, director for the Toledo School for the Arts (TSA), told the committee that H.B. 102 addresses a number of issues for TSA. “The additional funding available to TSA through this bill would allow for more innovative instructional opportunities for our students.”
Thomas Babb, CFO at Constellation Schools in Parma, said the bill is a step in the right direction to provide equitable primary and secondary education funding for all students in Ohio.
Implementing the provisions of H.B. 102 is contingent on a companion resolution H.J.R. 3 that has been introduced to take the issue to the voters. If a constitutional amendment is approved by voters it would authorize the following:
Direct the state to issue obligations to refund outstanding bond debt of school districts.
Levy a state property tax beginning in tax year 2020 to fund primary and secondary education.
Prohibit the levy of local school district property taxes, including un-voted "inside" millage.
Brenner noted that If students are performing well, it would not matter which school they were going to. “If a school was not performing then 100 percent of the money would leave the school when the student left,” he said. “With that money gone, it would impact the school quickly. It would be true for a charter school or traditional public school.”
Brenner added that in the case of a public school, the academic output would be a measure and drive the need for a policy change when not meeting standards. “It would make that change faster than currently realized, where it can drag on for years. That’s in the best interest of the students,” he emphasized. “If you have school teachers who work in traditional public schools and they want more autonomy, H.B. 102 would be the way to do it. Education would be based on results.”