School funding report reflects disparities between low-wealth and high-wealth districts

Ohio Statehouse News

COLUMBUS (WDTN) – In 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the way Ohio funded its schools was unconstitutional. Wednesday, a report was released that claims little has changed.

School funding is a complex issue but ultimately it boils down to two major sources, local money and state money, and when it comes down to state funding experts say more should be done.

School funding at the local level is all based on property tax levies and in some districts income tax levies.

Dr. Howard Fleeter, Economist and Report Author, said, “The poor districts, no matter how hard they try to get their voters to support levies, just can’t raise enough money.”

That means the state must step in. They give all schools money. Low-wealth districts are supposed to get more than high-wealth districts.

“The first 10 years after the court ruling we did make a lot of progress. The problem is in the 10 years since then, we’ve really fallen back,” said Dr. Fleeter.

Senate President Larry Obhof disputes the idea that education is not a priority at the Statehouse.

“I think we’re all focused on the same thing which is making sure that all children get a quality education and that which zip code you live in doesn’t determine how good your education’s going to be,” he said. “In the last budget despite closing a 1.8 billion dollar gap and cutting spending overall, we increased funding to the schools by about 200 million dollars, maybe a little bit more than that. In each of the prior two budgets we increased state spending on schools by more than 700 million dollars.”

Dr. Fleeter said, “If we just make this about the money and we don’t worry about making sure every kid gets a quality education then we will have not lived up to what that decision was supposed to mean, and I think that’s the bottom line. It’s not just more money, it’s making sure that that money actually makes a difference.”

Fleeter says there are significant achievement gaps between low-income and high-income kids, which mirrors the significant disparities in funding between low-wealth and high-wealth places.

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