The Ohio Legislature is considering a new school funding formula as part of the state budget which must be signed into law by July 1. In this morning’s Plain Dealer, Laura Hancock reports* that the Ohio 8, the state’s largest urban school districts, held a news conference yesterday to protest several provisions of the Ohio Senate’s substitution of an inferior school funding plan for the Ohio House’s carefully developed and vetted Fair School Funding Plan.
Hancock reports that the state’s eight largest urban school districts announced: “The 25 wealthiest Ohio public school districts would receive the largest percentage increase in funding under the Senate’s version of education funding reform in the two-year state operating budget. Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon said, ‘The 25 least wealthy districts in Ohio, including ours, received the smallest percentage of increase… From an equity and fairness perspective, we would still advocate for a fair funding formula.'”
The Ohio 8 also point out an outrageous expansion of school privatization inserted quietly into the version of the budget now being considered by a House-Senate conference committee:
“The Ohio 8 group also disagrees with a budget provision currently being considered by the House-Senate conference committee that requires districts to sell or lease their buildings to charter, STEM or college-preparatory boarding schools in the district’s boundaries if the facility has been used for district academic instruction but less than 60% of the building is used for that purpose in the preceding school year. That provision would go into effect July 1.”
Cleveland CEO Eric Gordon protests: “This is essentially evicting our schoolchildren out of our own buildings in order to give it to somebody else for other schoolchildren… They’re forcing us to move more children around our communities and there’s no similar provision that a charter school would have to use the whole space in the building.”
Hancock explains further: “Reasons that buildings are sometimes not at 100% capacity include them being used for wraparound services, for specialized programming, early learning, and after-school programming, Gordon said.”
It is appalling that the House-Senate budget conference committee is discussing a middle-of-the-night amendment to the budget that has never been considered at all in open hearings. One wonders whether one of the large charter management organizations wrote the amendment and pulled strings to get it inserted into the state budget, or whether it was the Thomas Fordham Institute, which advocates for the expansion of charter schools and which, in Ohio, serves as a charter school authorizer.
The Ohio Legislature’s budget conference committee should insert the Ohio House’s thorough, equitable, stable Fair School Funding Plan back into the state budget. The plan was developed over three years by legislators, public school educators, and policy experts. The Ohio Constitution does not envision the investment of state budget dollars into a marketplace where individual parent consumers seek the perfect educational choice for each individual student. Instead the state constitution defines public schools as an essential part of the social contract—the embodiment of our mutual responsibility to each other as fellow citizens and to Ohio’s children. The constitution mandates a thorough and efficient system of common schools.
*The link is an exact copy of the Plain Dealer‘s paywalled article.