A reader of the Jungle wrote me an e-mail asking basically where was Ohio education funding at since it had been declared unconstitutional over a decade ago. She suggested it might be an interesting topic to cover here, and I agree. It’s actually been covered recently in some of the media outside of our area. One example is an article from the Columbus Dispatch, yesterday July 19 – (link) part of:
Strickland, with help from legislative Democrats, built a new funding formula in 2009 called the “evidence-based model.”
It changed the way the state determines the costs of various components identified as necessary for a quality education, a method public-school advocates have pushed for years. It attempted to get rid of phantom revenue, a component in the old formula that financially punished a number of districts when property values rose. It eventually will require every district to offer all-day kindergarten.
And once fully paid for – a proposition nine years and billions of dollars away – the plan is supposed to fund a quality education in every district without the need for property taxes beyond the state minimum 20 mills.
The funding plan addresses what the Supreme Court said must be done to achieve a constitutionally mandated “thorough and efficient” system of schools, without relying too much on property taxes, said Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst.
“Gov. Strickland has done what (past Republican leaders) have failed to do, which is a systematic overhaul of education in Ohio that will ensure children are successful in the 21st century,” she said.
But with Ohio’s tax revenue battered by a national recession, Strickland’s plan is missing one key element: money.
Columbus NBC 4i covered this topic on July 15 (link) part of that recommended article:
Jeff Anderson, Newark City Schools Treasurer, said he would bet that close to 700 other local school treasurers agree that something has to be done about DeRolph v. State of Ohio, in which the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the state school funding system unconstitutional in 1997.
Thirteen years later, Anderson said the burden is still on the local taxpayer.
“The legislature for the past 13 years has just chosen more or less to ignore that ruling from the State of Ohio Supreme Court. That’s wrong because continually it falls back on our local citizens and strictly on property taxes. That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not what the Constituion of Ohio says,” Anderson said.
Anderson said a sales tax may be the answer or a combination of a sales tax, income tax and property tax.
Ohio’s School Funding Advisory Council is reviewing the Evidence-based School Funding Model adopted by the state in 2009. The Council consists of 28 members and six subcommittees. Subcommittee members include members of the full Council and appointed members.
For those of you interested in additional background information, two sites that have some of the legal history (link) and (link). On July 5 the Dispatch had an interview with the judge who first ruled Ohio’s school funding unconstitutional, (link).
As kind of an historical sidebar, what was stated in a report from the Council of State Governments (link) in 2000:
“This debate over school funding has been going on a long time. I know we will encounter some difficulties, but I also am hopeful and optimistic,” says Ohio Rep. Jeanine Perry of Toledo, one of six Democrats serving on the committee. “My belief is that we will seek some improvements, we will have lengthy debates, and we will come to agreements on part of the resolution to this problem.”
As the first article in this post points out, Governor Strickland’s plan to use the “evidence-based model” is believed will eventually be the solution to the question of unconstitutionality by some, including some involved in the original court filing seeking the opinion the school funding system was unconstitutional. With the current economic climate and so many school systems facing financial challenges, for many the end of reliance on the local levy system can not come soon enough. Yet it’s also clear, that not everyone is confident that the State of Ohio can ever provide a “thorough and efficient” educational system, as dictated by the Ohio Constitution.