CLEVELAND — Some local parents are keeping close watch on Ohio's Fair School Funding Plan, which is under debate by the Ohio House and Senate in Columbus.
Joan Spoerl is a Cleveland Heights mother who is concerned about the academic future of her 16-year-old son. Spoerl, who testified at the Statehouse on the plan, is concerned the Senate version of the plan is not enough of a funding increase to help students and reduce the tax burden on homeowners.
“I want my child to finish out strong and not have to worry about it," Spoerl said. "Are the children in my community going to be taken care of, are they going to have an enriching early experience? The Senate version simply doesn’t have a formula that looks at what it costs to educate a child. It’s not equitable and it will keep us still dependent upon local levies. The local taxpayers in Ohio have been shouldering the burden because the state hasn’t fulfilled its primary constitutional responsibility.”
Karen Rego, president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union, said both the Senate and House versions of the plan will improve funding to her district and take the burden of community school vouchers away from districts.
But Rego is also concerned the Senate plan will not do enough to create true, lasting school funding reform.
“The Senate plan is only a two-year plan, so we could be back in this in a couple of years," Rego said. “If it doesn’t get improved, I don’t know how long we can maintain the size of staff that we have.”
Howard Fleeter, economist with the Ohio Education Policy Institute, said the Senate plan calls for $6,110 per pupil per year—a $90 increase over last year—while the House version of the plan calls for around $7,200 per pupil.
Fleeter said the Senate plan does not include increases in funding for what he called "categoricals."
“That is funding for students with disabilities, English language learners, economically disadvantaged students, transportation," Fleeter said. "The House approach to figuring out that per pupil amount I think is more comprehensive than the Senate approach.”
Wendy Patton, senior project director with Policy Matters Ohio, agreed with Fleeter that the Senate plan used older property tax data to arrive at its per pupil average.
“It’s underfunded, it’s not stable. it’s not transparent," Patton said. “This is not a problem of numbers, this is a problem of political priorities.”
The Ohio Senate and House will be in conference committee next week to work out a compromise on the Fair School Funding Plan, hoping to meet a June 30 deadline.
Meanwhile, school group "All in for Ohio Kids" created a calculator that 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.