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Ohio school funding bill introduced by Reps. Jamie Callender, Bride Rose Sweeney

Published By The News-Herald on February 4, 2021
Jamie Callender In The News

State Reps. Jamie Callender, R-Concord Township, and Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, have introduced a bill seeking to modernize K-12 school funding in Ohio. 

According to the lawmakers, the bill is “nearly identical” to the school funding reform legislation House Bill 305, that passed the Ohio House during the last General Assembly but was not brought to vote in the Senate.

Because House Bill 305 did not pass before the end of the last General Assembly, a new bill needed to be introduced during the new General Assembly.  

“This has been a comprehensive legislative process in the House as the original bill had nine hearings over the course of more than a year that resulted in this well-vetted school funding plan,” Callender said in a statement. “It is designed to meet the education-related needs of students of both today and into the future — it provides solutions that are transparent and justified by research and established best practices.” 

The newly proposed bill, House Bill 1, also called the Fair School Funding Plan, “builds on three years of feedback from education professionals who do this work for a living every day of their lives and who represent Ohio’s diverse school districts: urban and rural, large and small,” according to the lawmakers. 

“After 23 years under a broken school funding system, Ohioans can’t afford to wait any longer for a fair and comprehensive solution, Sweeney said in a statement. “For every time the legislature kicked the can down the road in the past, more students have been left behind and more families have moved out of our communities.

“I am very encouraged by the widespread support for the Fair School Funding Plan from constituents, educators and lawmakers of both parties," she added. "The time has come to enact a transparent, predictable, and scalable model that Ohioans can count on for generations to come.” 

House Bill 305 passed the House in an 87-9 vote in early December 2020 with less than a month left in the General Assembly.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, said days after the House vote that more analysis is needed about the accuracy and feasibility of the proposal’s eventual price tag. He said he wanted to work on the funding formula in conjunction with the state budget process happening during the first months of 2021.  

Gov. Mike DeWine introduced his proposed biennial state budget Feb. 1, and his education proposal did not include any changes to the state funding formula. 

“We once again made a specific decision not to change the funding formula, knowing that both the House and Senate both had significant ideas and were well along in their process of developing a new formula,” DeWine said at the Feb. 1 news conference. 

In a joint Feb. 3 news release, Callender and Sweeney stated that “this reintroduction of (House Bill 305) includes resources for professional development for teachers that address the health, safety, social and emotional needs of students, academic and athletic co-curricular activities, and technology used in education today.” 

It also “adjusts the distribution formula for schools with an emphasis on a more accurate measure of school district capacity by using both property and income wealth to determine the local share,” according to the lawmakers. 

It also contains “additional categories of aid aimed at creating an equitable system of funding for our schools.” These include gifted education, special education, English language learners, economically disadvantaged and transportation.

The components were modified with input from practitioners and child advocates from across the state, the lawmakers stated. 

They also stated the plan “advances funding and initiatives for career technical education in schools and Education Service Center.”

Callender said in a phone interview Feb. 2, prior to the introduction of House Bill 1, he believes they can get something that resembles House Bill 305 into the House’s version of the state budget before it’s passed onto the Senate some time in April.

“I’m confident we will be able get something done,” he said. “We’ve already put hundreds and hundreds of hours in it.”

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