COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It has been a week full of hearings for Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed budget at the Ohio Statehouse.

On Thursday, the House Finance Committee heard from the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Representatives on the committee and those testifying said the proposed budget is an investment in the state’s future workforce.

“A lot of changes are coming to education — I think ultimately for the better,” said chair of the committee, Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville).

Stephanie Siddens, interim superintendent of public instruction for the state, emphasized the importance of literacy. She said 40% of Ohio’s third graders are not reading at grade level.

“We have to make sure we are holistically addressing every single student,” Assistant Minority Leader Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus) said.

In a statement, the Ohio Department of Education said it is “thrilled” the state education board’s budget priorities not only came to fruition but were exceeded.

“The budget proposal expands on our priorities for helping students recover from the impact of the pandemic,” the statement read. “The Department is committed to serving the needs of Ohio’s students with special attention to raising literacy achievement, accelerating learning, strengthening workforce readiness and supporting student and staff wellness.”

The proposed budget also phases in a new, bipartisan spending formula for school districts. Called the “Cupp-Patterson” plan, it calculates a school district’s share using a 60/40 split of property values and family income.

“The phase in of the Cupp-Patterson plan is very important,” Edwards said. “Making sure we’re funding schools appropriately and we fund the children.”

In a statement, here is what the state department of education said about the funding plan:

“State foundation funding represents the largest part of the Department’s budget, and school funding is the single largest expenditure of the state General Revenue Fund (excluding federal funding). For many schools and districts, state foundation funding represents their largest revenue source. The school funding formula works to ensure schools have the resources they need regardless of where students live, by taking the wealth and capacity of local school districts into account when calculating and distributing state resources.”

On higher education, the chancellor of the department, Randy Gardner, said the proposed budget is “transformative.”

“Workforce development is a big part of this conversation,” Edwards said. “We’re hearing from employers all over the state that we’re lacking in jobs and opportunities, so we’ve got to meet the two.”

The budget would help families save an estimated $31 million in tuition and fees. It also allocates $10 million annually for mental health services.

“Overall, it’s an opportunity to make sure students are their best selves,” Jarrells said.

Both education departments said they look forward to working with the General Assembly to ensure equitable and affordable education across the state.