A message from former state representative, Dr. John Patterson:
On Tuesday, April 13th the Finance Committee of the Ohio House accepted Substitute House Bill 110–the main operating budget bill. Found within the sub bill was, in its entirety, House Bill 1–the Fair School Funding Plan.
For over three years, the Fair School Funding workgroup has labored to produce a funding formula that is objective, transparent, equitable, and adequate—the last two descriptors being part of the DeRolph decision(s) wherein the Ohio Supreme Court to declare the state’s system of funding education to be unconstitutional.
This past December, the Ohio House passed HB 305 which was the cumulative result of the workgroup’s effort by a vote of 87-9. HB 1, now encompassed into HB 110, retains all the elements of HB 305.
The League of Women Voters has long been a champion of school funding reform. The Fair School Funding Plan reflects that defining belief.
In essence, the workgroup has accounted for every dollar necessary for a student’s education. The base cost reflects research and best practice when computing teacher/pupil ratios, educational supports, and building and district costs. Added to the base are the various “categorical costs” such as transportation, gifted education, special education, English language learners, and Education Service Centers. For the first time, all costs associated with a high quality education have been calculated. This meets the test of adequacy.
The workgroup also wrestled with the thorny issue of distribution—answering the question of “what is the fair share for the local district (known as “capacity”) and what is the fair share for the state?” By virtue of Ohio’s constitution, education funding is a joint venture between the local districts and the state. HB 1 contains a formula based in part on each district’s unique property wealth and each district’s unique income wealth to determine with precise accuracy, a local district’s capacity. Therefore, as many have argued, HB 1 meets the test of equity.
For nearly three decades, Ohio’s system of funding schools has been a patchwork quilt of “fixes.” The Fair School Funding workgroup, a collection of superintendents and treasurers from around the state who are engaged daily in the field, has successfully developed a formula that is fair and predictable—one that ought to be adopted in this budget cycle and phased-in over the next six years.
And why should we care about adequate and equitable school funding? First, to train and educate the workforce needed to sustain our standard of living. Second, to support as best we can, that education which inspires children to learn for the love of learning. To explore, question, and value knowledge itself for the maximum development of those skills and gifts which are inherent in all children. And finally, to quote a maxim attributed to Thomas Jefferson “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” Without a proper education, the very existence of our great democratic experiment will be in jeopardy.
To be sure, we face an uphill battle. Though over 1,000 school board members representing over 500 school districts across the state have signed resolutions supporting HB 1, there are those who remain skeptical or would prefer to do nothing. This is not an option.
Do your part for your children, your grandchildren, and your community. Contact your State Representative and State Senator and ask that they support HB 1 as it is to be found in HB 110, the budget bill. This is the plan, this is the time, this is the ask. Just do it!
Representative Sarah Fowler-Arthur
Senator Sandra O'Brien