We need Constitutional education funding

Published 10:00 am Thursday, June 11, 2009

As families across Ohio struggle through the difficult economy, it is important that Ohio’s schools continue to receive enough funding for our young students to succeed.

In January, Governor Strickland unveiled an education budget that has gained widespread hype across Ohio.

He has proposed a comprehensive, modernized education for all children of Ohio by integrating real-life learning opportunities and skills to better prepare students for an increasingly technological society.

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These changes include a lower student-teacher ratio, longer school years and all-day kindergarten, which would benefit students and maximize their learning potential.

However, when converted to a funding formula, this plan allocated greater funding increases to wealthier districts at the expense of poorer districts, a setback that my colleagues and I will work through in the coming weeks.

The governor’s education plan used a formula that widened the disparity between school districts and financed per-pupil funding at a lower level than during the previous biennium. This was the first budget since the DeRolph decision in 1997 in which schools would actually receive less funding, and wealthier districts would receive a greater share of the available state funds than low wealth districts.

For instance, Upper Arlington, a wealthy school district in Franklin County, would have received a funding increase of more than 161 percent, while Symmes Valley school district would have received an increase of less than 20 percent.

This formula would leave Symmes Valley in a much worse financial condition than in previous years, since the school district would receive the smallest funding increase it has seen in a decade.

Governor Strickland has indicated that under his plan, average school funding will increase by 43 percent over the next 10 years. However, the money isn’t there and the plan is underfunded by as much as $2.5 billion.

The Ohio Constitution calls for a balanced state operating budget that compensates for expenditures with sufficient revenues, but this education plan promises additional state aid that doesn’t exist.

We often are criticized for attempting to improve education with gimmicks that sound good and are easy and inexpensive to implement, but lack empirical bases that withstand the test of good research.

This plan, however, is proposed to have an “evidence-based” foundation but no clear financial backing.

I look forward to working with the governor as we modify this plan and provide a sound source of funding that benefits all school districts.

I applaud the governor’s efforts to rejuvenate and modernize Ohio’s education system, and I have confidence that all of us in the Legislature are working for a common goal – to provide the youth of Ohio with a superior, comprehensive education to prepare them for a modern economy.

The Ohio Senate has since modified the governor and House Democrats’ education plan to restore additional school funding, and now a compromise needs to be established with the governor to craft a logical formula that benefits all school districts, both wealthy and poor.

I hope to see us pursue a modern education system while upholding the fairness and equality of the DeRolph decision.

Rest assured, I will continue to speak for all children of Ohio and their right to receive a quality education.

Clyde Evans is from Gallipolis and represents part of Lawrence County in the 87th District of the House of Representatives. He can be reached at (614) 466-1366 or at 77 S. High St., Columbus, Ohio 43215.