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Most local schools would get more state aid

Widener says additional money should go to education.All but two Clark, Champaign districts would benefit under Senate plan.

A new budget proposal from the Ohio Senate could mean millions in additional state aid for most school districts in Clark and Champaign counties.

Changes to the state school funding formula included in the Ohio Senate’s two-year, $61.5 billion budget proposal would equate to increases in funding for many districts. Aid would increase by $717 million statewide in the next two years using a formula that considers any increase in the number of students and property tax revenues in the district. Those districts that have seen declines in taxes would see more of an increase, said Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield.

“As the economy and Ohio has grown, we have a few additional resources and frankly my senate colleagues and I were going to place them on public education,” Widener said. “We have to better educate kids to either go into the workforce or on into college, and it’s been a struggle.”

Under the proposal, Springfield City Schools would see a $3.3 million funding increase next year and $5.9 million in 2015. That money would allow the district to expand its programs for alternate education: post-secondary classes, online courses, dual-credits, internships and more, said Dr. David Estrop, superintendent.

“For Springfield, the concept of one size fits all, that’s over. That’s out of date,” he said. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes to help our students move forward as fast as they and their parents want to move forward.”

While Estrop said Springfield boasts the most credit options of any district in the state, its online and internship programs are still in their infancy. The additional funding, he said, would accelerate the district’s roll-out of those offerings.

Northeastern Local Schools Superintendent Lou Kramer said he is “cautiously optimistic” the proposal will lead to more dollars for his district. However, he said past proposals actually equated to lost money due to lower allocations for other funding items, such as transportation. Northeastern stands to gain $495,328 next year and $240,472 in 2015, if cuts aren’t made to other school programs.

“The plans have gotten better, so we are optimistic,” he said. “We’re waiting for the details.”

Greenon and Southeastern would be the lone local districts that would not see any increase in state aid.

The budget also includes $30 million for early childhood education. It proposes adding $54 million to help students meet the new third-grade reading guarantee, which requires students to know how to read before being allowed to move onto the fourth grade.

The plan will be discussed on the senate floor Tuesday, with voting expected Thursday. Widener said he expects senators will spend the bulk of June working with the Ohio House and Gov. John Kasich to iron out details. However, since the plan builds upon proposals already made by the House and governor, he said he wasn’t expecting major roadblocks.

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