Ohio Funding Reform Faces Opposition

Last Updated: May 27, 2009

This article appeared in the May 2009 Rural Policy Matters.

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Governor Ted Strickland’s school funding reform plan passed the state House but faces serious opposition in the Senate. Strickland, who campaigned on the issue of school finance reform, unveiled his plan earlier this year and toured the state promoting it.
Dubbed the “evidence-based” plan, it would be phased in over 10 years and is meant to reduce inequity among districts. It also includes major policy initiatives including all-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes, and a longer school year. The plan changes the basis for school funding from an amount legislators believe is available to an amount that research indicates will actually work in the classroom.
Arkansas and Wyoming also use an evidence-based approach to funding schools. Finance experts Allen Odden and Larry Picus, who helped craft the Ohio plan, cite improved educational outcomes in those two states.
Under the plan, Ohio’s state share of funding would increase to 61% after the phase-in. Greater equity among districts tends to occur when the state’s share of school funding increases, reducing reliance on local revenues, which are highly variable due to differences in local wealth.
Strickland’s plan has received serious criticism from many in the state, including rural districts who felt the plan did not adequately address their needs. Advocates for charter schools also criticized the performance requirements the plan placed on charter school funding.
House Democrats made major changes to the plan before passing it, which satisfied many of the rural districts’ concerns. However, Senate Republicans have promised close scrutiny of the plan and are expressing doubt that they can commit to the 10-year phase-in in this economic crisis. 
Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Deborah Delisle supports giving districts flexibility in meeting the plan’s programmatic requirements. The plan is part of this year’s budgeting process, which must be completed by June 30.
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