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Kasich to unveil plan to fund Ohio schools today

Gov. John Kasich will unveil his plan for funding Ohio’s public schools today, just days before he releases a state budget plan for the next two years.

It is expected, based on his previous statements, that Kasich’s school proposals won’t provide a rush of state money to districts, but will allocate money to reflect student needs in the classroom.

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None of the official communication from the governor’s office has said what the proposal will include.

Ohio schools are funded by a combination of local, state and federal sources — 45 percent from local revenues and 44 from state revenues in 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Nearly $2 billion in state and federal aid was cut from public schools in the state’s last two-year budget.

Kasich plans to present his school funding formula and other education reforms to hundreds of superintendents Thursday afternoon at a Buckeye Association of School Administrators conference near Columbus. Kasich has kept details of the reforms secret, even from lawmakers and education advocates.

Ohioans will have the chance to comment on the plan and share their ideas for education at 6 p.m. Thursday with Kasich and the education advisers who crafted the plan. The “virtual town hall meeting” will be broadcast on the Ohio Channel and Ohioans can weigh in on Kasich’s Facebook page and through Twitter by including the hashtag #ohedu in their tweets.

Reporter Jackie Borchardt will be covering the story all day -- follow her on Twitter @JMBorchardt for live updates. >>

WATCH the event live at 2 p.m. here >>

Kasich advertised the event through social media and emails sent by his campaign office. Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the event is not a campaign event, and the email list was used to spread the word.

All Ohio superintendents and charter school leaders were invited to the 2 p.m. unveiling of the plan. Teachers unions, the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials were not on the invite list.

The Ohio Education Association President Patricia Frost-Brooks sent a letter to Kasich on Wednesday expressing her disappointment with his choice not to include OEA and others.

“There is a danger in listening only to outside consultants and organizations whose agenda is to downplay the importance of adequate school funding, highly-qualified teachers and real student engagement in classrooms,” Frost-Brooks wrote.

Asked whether these education groups were purposely excluded from the event, Nichols said the timing of the event was chosen because it included an audience.

A study released this week by liberal policy group Innovation Ohio shows recent cuts in state funding forced school districts to seek new levies. The report estimated new levy requests since May 2011 totaled $1.1 billion. Steven Dyer, the report’s author and a former Democratic state representative, said the state and federal cuts pushed the school funding burden further on local districts.

Nichols pointed out state foundation funding has increased $504 million in the 2012-13 budget over the previous budget — a 4.7 percent increase.

“The budget cuts in the current biennium have narrowed curriculum choices for students, increased class sizes and shifted school funding burdens from the state to local districts,” Frost-Brooks wrote Wednesday.

Democrats have called for the state to replace those losses and work in a bipartisan way to draft education reforms. Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, said they’re hopeful Kasich’s reform package will include some parts Democrats can support.

“There need to be real reforms that are based on the evidence of what works to help students improve academically,” Phillips said.

Several Ohio governors have tried their hand at a school funding formula since 1997, when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the system unconstitutional. The high court decided the state’s funding model “fails to provide for a thorough and efficient system of common schools” as required by the Ohio Constitution.

The Supreme Court also found that local property taxes cannot be used as the primary source of funding. In its final decision, the court closed the case and said it would not hear more on the issue.

Robert Stabile, who literally wrote the book on school funding in Ohio, said it will be difficult for Kasich’s model to meet the constitutional test, in part because the court wanted to stay out of it.

“There’s such a wide disparity between property values in different districts — it would take a huge amount of money for the state to equalize these districts,” Stabile said.

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