Ohio Funding Formula Remains Controversial After Election

Last Updated: November 26, 2010

This article appeared in the November 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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Ohio’s school funding formula, a heated topic throughout the gubernatorial race, has taken on new significance as the state prepares to implement its Race to the Top grant.

The formula, championed by outgoing Governor Ted Strickland as an “evidence-based” model, began a ten-year phase-in period two years ago. Strickland claimed the new formula would reduce reliance on local property taxes and the resulting inequities in per pupil spending among districts.

Those inequities were a factor in four Ohio Supreme Court rulings that found the previous school funding system unconstitutional.

But John Kasich, who challenged and defeated Strickland in the governor’s race, made campaign promises to ditch the new formula, which he characterized as having many unfunded mandates. He says he wants to direct more money into classrooms and has pledged not to raise taxes.

Strickland defends the plan as a crucial component of Ohio’s successful bid for $400 million in the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) program. He has suggested that altering the formula could jeopardize RTTT funding.

For his part, Kasich says he supports many of the provisions in RTTT, including charter schools and performance measures for teachers. He claims the evidence-based funding model has nothing to do with Ohio’s RTTT award.

That RTTT award has become increasingly controversial. Twenty-eight school districts and charter schools have withdrawn from RTTT participation. Several have claimed participation will require more costs than the grant covers or that new RTTT programs can’t be sustained when the grant runs out. Altogether about 500 districts and charters originally agreed to participate in RTTT programs.

Meanwhile, a panel appointed to monitor implementation of the evidence-based funding plan is scheduled to meet next month and present a report of its work over the past year. William Phillis, head of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy in School Funding, which brought the funding lawsuit, says the formula should not be dismantled and has the potential to eliminate the disparities.

During the campaign, Kasich made statements that seemed to suggest he supports consolidation as a way to cut education costs. But he has since backed away from those positions and now says he supports service-sharing among districts rather than consolidation.

Read more:

Campaign coverage on the funding issues:

Funding issues in context of De Rolph funding lawsuit:

Funding advisory panel work:

Campaign consolidation talk:

Race to the Top issues facing Kasich:

Levy results coverage:

Read more from the November 2010 Rural Policy Matters.