CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Teachers and parents in the Cleveland Heights school district are hoping Ohio's Senate will approve its version of the Fair School Funding Plan within its substitute state budget plan on June 2.
Karen Rego is a Cleveland Heights mother, teacher and teachers union president who believes Ohio school funding reform is desperately needed to help with budget issues in her district and many other districts in Northeast Ohio.
The current funding system, Rego said, has Ohio school districts relying too heavily on new levy millage, which can't keep pace with growing cost for education.
Rego said the current system also places too big a burden on local school district to fund voucher programs for parochial and charter schools. She said the Fair School Funding plan would provide direct state funding for those programs and lift the burden off of local municipal school districts.
“This new plan, this is a game changer for our district," Rego said. “We’re very high taxed in Cleveland Heights and they pay a lot of money to live in this district. We’re going to be asking the community again for money. But if we keep going to the taxpayers every two years, and they’re paying more and more, I mean, I don’t know how we can sustain that.”
Wendy Patton, Senior Project Director with Policy Matters Ohio said Ohio's current funding plan unfairly hurts low income districts and neighborhoods.
“Communities where property values are low cannot raise the kind of property taxes they need to adequately fund their students, and so the quality of education is not as good and as efficient as in wealthier communities," Patton said. “For the state Senate, it’s a big decision, and we hope that they make the right decision. When it comes to voucher programs, they need to be funded separately from the public school system and not draw local levy dollars into the funding of this alternate system. Where property values fall, levies keep rising and it does not provide the level of funding that the schools need.”
Patton pointed to a new Ohio school funding calculator created by the school group "All in for Ohio Kids." The calculator allows Ohio parents to type in the name of their school district to determine how much more funding their district would receive if the Fair School Fund Plan became law.
The funding calculator indicated Cleveland Heights schools would receive a projected 203% state budget increase, while Parma schools, which suffered another failed levy last November, would see a projected 49% increase.
Rego hopes the new Ohio funding plan, which has been in the works since March will finally become a reality in 2021.
“We’re trying to just tread water sometimes, and it just feels like it is a never-ending battle, that maybe for the first time we feel confident that this could maybe help part of that battle,” Rego said.