Once Again, Ohio Legislature Protects Rich School Districts and Preserves Funding Cuts for Poor Districts

Update: June 19, 2020, 7:30 PM:  Andrew Tobias of cleveland.com reports that Governor Mike DeWine has signed HB 164 that includes Senator Matt Dolan’s amendment restoring funding for 70 mostly wealthy suburban school districts.

In early May, after it became clear that COVID-19-driven business closures and growing layoffs had already resulted in a precipitous drop in tax receipts, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine cut the current Ohio budget by $775 million, including $300 million from the state’s 610 school districts. The Governor slashed money school districts had already budgeted. The cuts are not for next year; instead the Governor eliminated dollars that had been promised for the current fiscal year ending on June 30, in less than two weeks.

But last week, just prior the Ohio Legislature’s summer recess, Ohio State Senator Matt Dolan, whose family owns Cleveland’s Major League baseball team and who represents some of Ohio’s wealthiest exurban school districts, sneaked an amendment into Ohio House Bill 164, an education bill the Ohio Legislature passed and sent to Governor Mike DeWine for his signature. Dolan’s amendment would restore funding to many of the state’s wealthiest school districts, those with the greatest capacity to replace state dollars by passing additional local property tax millage.

The Dayton Daily News‘s Jeremy P. Kelley reports: “A late amendment to the bill will restore $23 million in funding to school districts mainly in wealthy communities. House Bill 164 ensures that between state cuts, CARES money and “offset payments” in this bill, no school district ends up getting less than 94% of its original state funding amount for 2019-20.”

On Tuesday, cleveland.com’s Rich Exner reported: “Legislation approved last week and awaiting the governor’s signature would restore part of the funding previously cut to 70 Ohio school districts, including 36 suburban districts in the Greater Cleveland, Akron area.”  Dolan’s amendment, “limits cuts to any one district to no more than 6% from original allocations for fiscal 2020, taking into account the net result of DeWine’s budget cut for the current fiscal year and anticipated federal CARES Act money that will extend into the next school year.”

Exner reminds readers that DeWine’s original method for cutting funding was designed to protect the state’s poorest school districts.  Dolan’s amendment instead protects the state’s richest districts.

Early in May when Governor DeWine announced the $300 million cut to K-12 education, cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias reported: “DeWine suggested the education funding cuts will be weighted to relatively spare poor schools… ‘I have expressed here at these press conferences concern about students at schools that do not have the revenue—poor schools, poor children,’ he said. ‘And so that certainly is taken into consideration when we put that formula together.'”

Writing for the Ohio Capital Journal, Susan Tebben cited the explanation of Kimberly Murnieks, Director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management: “She said the funding cuts were implemented through an ‘equalized per-pupil approach,’ meaning those with higher property wealth capacity would see a higher reduction because the state deemed them able to adjust to those reductions.”

State Senator Matt Dolan’s amendment to restore $23 million of the cuts to the state’s wealthiest school districts reverses the Governor’s plan to distribute the cuts with at least a measure of equity. In this week’s story for cleveland.com, Exner names some of the 70 school districts that will benefit from the amendment Dolan surreptitiously inserted into Ohio House Bill 164 last week: “The largest amounts in the state to be restored are for three Columbus-area districts: Olentangy ($2 million), Upper Arlington ($1.3 million), and Dublin ($1.1 million), plus the Sycamore district near Cincinnati ($1 million)…. But the largest chunk of the money would go to Cuyahoga County districts, with nearly $6 million split among 14 districts. The highest estimated amounts are for Solon ($819,921), Mayfield ($768,229), Strongsville ($623,954), Brecksville-Broadview Heights ($578,093), Rocky River ($539,431), and Westlake ($534,163).”

Dolan inserted his Ohio legislative amendment in the same week when Eric Gordon, the CEO of the Cleveland School District, testified before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee. Education Week‘s Evie Blad describes Gordon’s devastating testimony: “Eric Gordon, the CEO of the Cleveland School District, told the committee of potential factors that could force him to cut his district’s budget by 25 percent. These include a forecasted $23 million reduction in state aid; the elimination of $12 million in state funds designed to provide wrap-around services; a projected loss of $67 million local tax renewal, and a drop in local tax collections in the district returns to ‘recession era collection rates.’  Such a massive budget cut would force him to eliminate positions mid-year in the high-poverty district…. ”

Reading about Ohio State Senator Matt Dolan’s amendment to protect Ohio’s wealthiest school districts caused me to reflect on the prophetic words of the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin, a 20th century justice warrior, who was the pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City: “Never has a government climbed off the backs of the upper class so fast to tap-dance on the backs of the poor. Never in recent history have we had so blatant a plutocracy: a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy.” (Credo, p. 53)

2 thoughts on “Once Again, Ohio Legislature Protects Rich School Districts and Preserves Funding Cuts for Poor Districts

  1. Thanks for catching this Dolan amendment.
    Ugly!
    This is consistent with Dolan’s previous efforts to undermine the financial responsibility of his donors to public schooling, specifically the Orange School District, because of the ‘few’ students that they send to the Orange district.
    Do any of them have the remotest idea of the common good, and responsibility to those in the greatest need?
    How does one respect the wealthy and their legislative minions such as Rep Dolan when they orchestrate these egregious manipulations?
    Hopefully, Dewine will line-item veto this!

  2. Thanks for writing this and explaining it so well. It is simply heart breaking. Susie

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

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