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Ohio School Boards Frustrated with New State Budget

Michael Nutter

January 3, 2018

In order to make up for its $1.1 billion budget shortfall, the Ohio state government has placed strict limits on increases in school funding.

Since at least the Great Recession, inadequate funding has been a common pain point for public schools across the country. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as of the 2015-16 school year, “at least 25 states [were] still providing less ‘general’ or ‘formula’ funding (the primary form of state funding for schools) per student than in 2008.” As a result, the American K-12 system currently employs around 300,000 fewer teachers and support staff than it did pre-Recession, despite an enrollment spike of over 800,000 students.

Limited Funding Increases in 75% of Ohio Districts

In Ohio, the state government’s latest budget, which covers the two-year interval between mid-2017 and mid-2019, has only added to many local schools’ funding woes. The $65.5 billion budget includes funding bumps of around 1% each year for the state’s K-12 schools — $76.8 million for this school year, $86.9 million for the 2018-2019 school year — but these increases aren’t distributed very evenly.

While 235 Ohio districts will receive a funding increase of at least $10,000 over the life of the budget, 156 districts will see their funding cut by at least $10,000. A further 218 districts will have their funding more or less frozen through at least the next school year, meaning that over half of Ohio districts will see their state funding either decrease or remain stagnant. What’s more, according to the Columbus Dispatch, “77% of school districts will see a funding increase of less than 3% over [the next] two years.”

Rapidly growing districts in southwest Ohio like the Beavercreek City School District and Bethel Local Schools stand to gain the most from the new budget, with both enjoying greater than 5% increases to their state funding each year. The majority of districts in Butler County will receive slightly more modest boosts — between 3% and 4% each year.

However, roughly one in every ten Ohio districts — including the Vandalia-Butler City School District, the Kettering City School District, and Mason City Schools — will be hit with funding reductions in back-to-back years. The end result in some districts will be a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of the budget.

“We were told to plan for this and we did,” explains Kettering District Treasurer Dan Schall. “But Kettering City Schools is collecting millions of dollars less per year than we once were. The loss that local taxpayers have had to make up over the years is huge.”

Maximizing District Funding

As Schall suggests, raising taxes on local residents is often the only recourse for districts facing budget cuts at the state level. In a typical year, local property taxes account for nearly half of all public school funding across the country. Unfortunately, this means that wealthier districts have an easier time making up funding gaps when state and federal authorities tighten the purse strings, as higher property values dictate that even a modest tax hike will add substantial sums of money to the district coffers.

For districts without this luxury — and, in truth, even for those with such a failsafe lever at their disposal — securing every last penny to which they’re entitled is absolutely essential. Districts receive funds based on how many students they enroll, both in terms of the general population and in supplemental programs like special education, Limited English Proficiency instruction, and career or technical training. As a result, a district’s funding depends in large part on whether they’re able to accurately track the enrollment status of each and every one of their students.

To that end, an educational data verification tool like Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform can make it simple to validate and correct any district’s EMIS record sets. As Ohio schools face a bigger funding gap than ever before, districts across the state must do everything they can to claim the largest possible slice. It’s the only way forward in this challenging economic climate.

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