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Legislature Makes Gains on School Funding But Fails to Enact Fair School Funding Formula

June 29, 2021
Policy Matters Ohio: Caitlin Johnson, 216-361-9801, 
Ohio Organizing Collaborative: Maki Somosot, 720-487-6632,
Ohio Education Association: Julie Newhall, 614-578-6380,
Ohio Federation of Teachers: Neil Bhaerman, 412-266-4899, 
Legislature Makes Gains on School Funding But Fails to Enact Fair School Funding Formula
Yesterday, the General Assembly’s conference committee on budget legislation released their conference report containing the final budget language that both chambers will vote on this week. The legislation includes partial funding of the House’s Fair School Funding Plan but does not include the full funding that would have been phased in over six years. 
“We organized. We held town halls. We called and emailed our legislators. We came together – parents, teachers, school support staff, school administrators, community members – and we made a huge impact for our kids,” said Taylor Pennington, a public school parent in Lima, Ohio. “This legislation enacts a student-centered school funding formula for the next two years that will help all our local schools deliver world-class opportunities. We need to keep raising our voices to make this a permanent funding formula.” 
The conference committee was tasked with finding a consensus after the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate passed widely different plans. The Fair School Funding Plan, which passed in the House, was developed with public input over three and a half years and received an overwhelming bipartisan majority vote. It created a fair and equitable permanent school funding formula that would have allowed school districts to have stability in planning and budgeting. The Senate plan, which was developed behind closed doors and released late in the budget process, failed to provide an actual funding formula that would be in place beyond this budget cycle.
“Ohio’s future depends on all our kids getting a great education – no matter where they live, what they look like or how much money their families have. The conference committee’s revised school funding plan is a step forward toward that goal, but it falls short of instituting a fair and equitable school funding formula that will remain in place beyond this budget cycle,” said Emily Hatfield, Treasurer and CFO for Olentangy Schools. “This will hamper any district’s ability to plan for the future and make the investments needed to meet students’ needs.” 
The conference report also funds private school vouchers and charters directly, removing the punitive local deductions that have hampered district budgets across the state. However, by also expanding eligibility and increasing funding for vouchers while shifting the funding obligation to the state, the updated legislation will create long-term problems as it diverts more state funding to private, religious and for-profit schools. 
“Mansfield City Schools educators, parents, and students have been raising alarms for years about how the current funding system is harming our school district and reducing opportunities for our kids. This legislation is positive progress for Mansfield City Schools by instituting a fair funding formula and ending the local deductions for private school vouchers,” said Mansfield Middle School teacher Zach Jones. “While this bill is a step in the right direction, it also kicks the can once again. Legislatures only committed to two years of using the Fair School Funding Plan as a basis for funding. Maybe they hope we’ll forget in two years. We won’t forget and we’ll continue to successfully fight for equity for Ohio’s children."
The All in for Ohio Kids coalition came together to ensure all children get a world-class education by passing the Fair School Funding Plan. This budget marks a major step forward, but there is more work to do to make sure Ohio lawmakers use our public resources to build stronger communities for all Ohioans, no matter where they live or what they look like.  
“Thanks to all the Ohioans who spoke up for their school, the conference committee puts us on a path to correct decades of inequitable and insufficient school funding. Fully phased-in, the Fair School Funding Plan would send $2 billion in additional funding to schools,” said Hannah Halbert, Executive Director for Policy Matters Ohio. “Ohio has enough revenue, resources, and heart to fully and fairly fund our schools, but some in the statehouse continue to prioritize the already well-to-do and corporations. The revenue lost to the latest round of income tax cuts is estimated to be $1.7 billion. Together with new and expanded tax loopholes, the overall tax cuts will easily exceed $2 billion over the two-year budget.”
All in for Ohio Kids represents a broad group of concerned organizations and individuals who are working together to fully and fairly fund our schools. Parents, teachers, students, labor leaders and policy experts are providing important leadership, with organizations like Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Policy Matters Ohio, Amos Project, Ohio Student Association, Ohio Education Association and Ohio Federation of Teachers helping to lead the way.

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