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In-Depth: Will Ohio reform its school funding formula in 2020?

Posted at 10:20 PM, Dec 02, 2020

PARMA, Ohio — Lawmakers in Columbus are running out of time in their bid to pass significant school funding reform before the end of the year.

Supporters of House Bill 305 and companion Senate Bill 376 believe the measure would create a state funding formula that would better address the needs of districts that have a large number of students from low-income families and make the districts less reliant on new tax levy millage.

Those backing the bills believe the proposals would better take into account district demographics, including income, the size of the local property tax base, and the ability of district residents to raise local tax revenue.

Scott DiMauro, President of the Ohio Education Association, told News 5 Ohio school funding reform is desperately needed.

“We’re hoping that we get a formula that really funds schools based on what are the elements necessary for a high-quality education," Dimauro said.

“Of course you put a priority on school districts that don’t have the resources to be able to fund those needs locally."

Daniel Hershman-Rossi, with the Cleveland Heights, University Heights Teachers Union AFT 795, also agreed state school funding reform is crucial, with the union and the school district reaching a tentative agreement and stopping a strike over health benefits on Dec. 2.

“We’re in an education budget crisis throughout the whole state," Hershman-Rossi said.

“It’s an unjust system and it’s a system that disproportionately affects districts like ours, we have a high number of students who live in poverty.”

Cathy Fallert, a Parma mother who's concerned about more program cuts in her school district because of yet another failed levy, said Ohio school funding reform can't come soon enough.

“Oh It’s heartbreaking, it’s the same thing over and over, let’s do for everybody but our children," Fallert said.

“We still have band and choir, but pretty soon those are going to go, art classes are going to go.”

“There’s so many people in these communities that don’t want to support the schools, whether they can’t financially, or they just don’t want to. They’re tired of always footing the bill, we need to find another way.”

State lawmakers who are questioning the school funding bills, or those against it, are concerned it will come with a huge price tag that could reach $2 billion over a 10 year period.

Some lawmakers are concerned it's not the right time to make huge changes in school funding when the state could face significant budget cuts in 2021 due to COVID-19 related costs.

Others are against the measures because they believe they won't provide enough funding for Ohio STEM schools.