Seven of 12 school districts winners in Kasich budget

But numbers aren’t final; lots of haggling expected.

Seven of 12 public school districts in Clark and Champaign counties could get more money under Gov. John Kasich’s two-year budget proposal.

Statewide, only 49 percent of Ohio 610 school districts are projected to see increases from this year to 2016-17, according to data released this week by the Office of Budget and Management.

Springfield City School District would see a 7.3 percent increase in fiscal year 2016 and a 7.4 percent increase in fiscal year 2017 — the largest bump in school funding in Clark and Champaign counties.

Superintendent David Estrop said he is pleased with Kaisch’s proposal, saying it appears to address the 1997 Ohio Supreme Court decision that found the state’s system of funding schools is unconstitutional.

Estrop said the proposed new funding formula appears to allow taxes collected statewide such as income tax to be reallocated to school districts and addresses disparities between high wealth districts and low wealth district.

“We’re happy to see that and it makes a lot of sense for us, because dollars do matter in terms of what you can get done,” said Estrop. “And often the need is greater in some sense in the communities that have less of a property tax base because poverty rates are higher.

“There’s a need, and this is certainly a great way to address it.”

Other school districts that would receive more money under the current proposal are: Greenon, Northeastern, Northwestern, Tecumseh, Clark-Shawnee and Urbana.

State Budget Director Tim Keen noted that the numbers are merely projections for 610 school districts on recommendations that are subject to five months of legislative debate and tweaking.

The Kasich administration is changing the school funding formula so that it’s based on both property values and median income in a district. The governor wants to move more school districts onto the basic funding formula and off what’s called “the guarantee” — which promises that a district will receive no less than a threshold amount in state aid, regardless of its capacity to raise funds on its own.

In fiscal year 2016, 167 districts will be on the formula, 204 on the cap and 239 on the guarantee, Keen said. The following year, 277 will be on the formula funding, 138 on the cap and 203 on the guarantee.

The Kasich administration also wants to eliminate reimbursements to school districts for money they lost when the state phased out taxes on tangible personal property several years ago.

Kasich and his top managers are ready for the disgruntlement that follows anytime school funding is changed.

Kasich’s Communications Director Scott Milburn is quick to point out that the governor’s budget calls for a net increase in state funding for K-12.

“This is not a modest budget for K-12. It goes up $700 million, on top of $1 billion in the last biennium. These are not small numbers,” Milburn said.

Greenon would receive 3 percent more in fiscal year 2016 and .82 percent more in fiscal year 2017.

Northwestern would get 2.5 percent more in fiscal year 2016 and .70 percent more in fiscal year 2017.

Northwestern Superintendent Tony Orr said the data released this week is too new for school districts to know exactly how much they will receive and the mandates that come with the funding.

“At the current time, it is difficult to ascertain the total effects of the changes suggested,” Orr said.

When asked about districts that may lose state funding, Orr said all schools should be properly funded.

Orr, who has worked in education for 20 years, also said all mandates should be supported financially by the state.

“We’re doing students and the children of Ohio a disservice when we expect schools and local taxpayers to carry an excessive burden that is not equal across the board,” Orr said.

School districts that stand to lose money with the new formula include Southeastern, Mechanicsburg, Triad, West Liberty Salem and Graham. All would see a 1 percent decrease in funding.

Graham Superintendent Norm Glismann said district officials are concerned about the data released by the state this week.

Glismann said the district’s treasurer thinks that attendance figures and other numbers that were included in the formula were incorrect and wondered if changes would be made to the data.

“At this point, it’s just difficult to tell whether our district will come out ahead or behind,” said Glismann. “Honestly, I’m sure there will be numerous iterations of that budget between now and the time it’s finalized. So now we’re really just taking a wait-and-see approach in our district.”

Glismann said if the district were to lose money, it would be OK based on the current five-year forecast.

“It would be a concern, but it would not cause us to make mass cuts or anything like that,” Glismann said.

Glismann said it appears that districts are going to have to rely increasingly on local money to support schools, because less and less is coming from the state.

“You never want to go backwards,” he said. “You never want to have less money next year than you had this year. But most of us who have been in this state for a while as administrators realize there’s just probably not going to be any more money coming from Columbus. We continue to have unfunded mandates.

“The state seems to be indicating that funding for schools is just really going to have to be a local effort.”

Glismann said Graham was forced to cut 26 teachers following the 2010-11 school year because of the lack of funding and has not recovered. He said each time state funding is reduced, the district is getting further away from giving students the resources and services they need for their education.

“We have a lot of students who need extra intervention and extra assistance and we don’t have the people to provide the level that’s really needed by our students,” he said. “We’re providing what we can, but when you lose 26 teachers, that equated to 17 percent of the teaching staff for the district.”

Estrop said the additional money would allow his district to have more resources in the classes, such as materials and staff. He also said it could allow the district to consider expanding its summer school and after-school programs.

“One of the things that clearly we have demonstrated in Springfield is our children can do the work,” Estrop said. “But because so many of them start behind when they enter school, it takes more time for them to get the work done. So we need time after school, we need time in the summer to help them catch up so they can compete with the rest of not only Ohio and the nation, but the world.”

Estrop said districts that would lose money are likely those with a substantial property tax base and are in a position to provide more funding from their local property tax.

“If they can do that, then they should,” he said. “We’re in a position as a community where our property base per pupil has diminished and even if we tax the same rate as (Columbus suburban districts) Bexley or Upper Arlington, we wouldn’t come close to generating the money that they have.”

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