In an effort to bring educational funding up to 2023 levels, the Perrysburg Schools superintendent testified before the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education.
Tom Hosler and co-presenters Ryan Pendleton, executive director North Coast Shared Services Alliance, and Michael Hanlon Jr., Ph.D., superintendent, Chardon Local Schools, are members of the Fair School Funding WorkGroup. The group has represented the interests of public schools to the legislature since 2017 and on Tuesday provided testimony in support of fully-funding the Fair Funding Model for Ohio’s Schools.
The Fair School Funding Plan was endorsed by Gov. Mike DeWine in his 2023 Biennium Budget proposal, but at a 2018 level. In addition to inflation, property tax values have increased.
“During that biennial budget cycle, the Fair School Funding Plan was amended both in the House and Senate, but the final report of the conference committee on House Bill 110 continued about 90% of its original provisions,” Hosler told the finance subcommittee.
Hosler described the funding issue that will affect state support of public school districts, including Perrysburg.
Those provisions included the following: A state share/local share distribution calculation that reflects the two primary measure that accurately determine a district’s capacity to provide the necessary local support required to fulfill its share of the state/local partnership required by the Ohio constitution: property valuation per pupil (60%) and personal income per pupil (40%),” Hosler said.
The most current numbers are from 2022, because there is always a year lag, but that leaves a four-year difference, during which time property taxes have been reassessed.
“The local share is based on property valuations, which have increased each year with property values rising in Ohio. That creates an imbalance with the state’s obligation, set at 2018 numbers, and local districts relying on more current numbers,’ Hosler said in a follow-up interview. “That’s causing some challenges with how the formula is working, because it’s kind of a teeter-totter. The state has an obligation. The local share has an obligation. To make the formula work, they kind of need to be balanced in what they are required to pay. Right now, it’s a little bit out of balance.”
Hosler admitted that it is complicated, but that is why the three members tried to explain the problem to the subcommittee over two hours of testimony, which also included a question-and-answer session.
The implications could be hundreds of dollars per student.
The district currently has 5,800 students. A recent facilities planning meeting for Perrysburg Schools assumed an average 2% growth per year, and planned out until 2040, for a projected 8,400 students.
“What’s important for us, as a growing district, is to be fully funded for all the students. When that happens we’re better able to plan for the future, because we know what to expect in the years to come. Right now we wait two years for the biennium budget to be done before we know what we’re going to get,” Hosler said.
A second funding issue is fully phasing in the support for special education and transportation. The new funding plan, which was approved in 2021, is being gradually phased in over six years. The funding plans for special education and transportation were waiting on a study, which has now been completed, along with recommendations to the state.
The WorkGroup members are asking that those recommendations be followed with 100% of the recommended funding levels.
Legislators also asked the three about other related school funding, including the House Bill 11, also called the Backpack Bill, and the related Senate Bill 11, the Parent Educational Freedom Act to expand eligibility for Educational Choice scholarships.
As Hosler explained the two different pieces of legislation, they would expand the non-public school voucher program in Ohio, by potentially providing private schools with an additional $5,500 per private school elementary students and $7,500 for high school students. The estimated cost to the state that Hosler has seen is $1.16 billion.
“The state is essentially creating three publicly funded school systems, with varying levels of regulations and accountability. Before more money flows into private schools, I think they need to address those issues,” Hosler said.
Hosler will be part of a League of Women Voters of Bowling Green public forum on the “Impact of School Vouchers on Public Schools” happening Thursday at 7 p.m. at Simpson Garden Park.
It will include a presentation and panel discussion with local superintendents from Perrysburg Schools, Springfield Schools and treasurers from Sylvania Schools and Bowling Green City Schools. The discussion will be facilitated by BGSU Teaching Professor Todd Cramer.