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Reps. Sweeney and Callender testify on bipartisan plan to fix school funding

Fair School Funding Plan offers the opportunity to deliver a historic win for Ohio's children and their future
February 11, 2021
Democrat Newsroom

State Reps. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) and Jamie Callender (R-Concord) testified before the House Finance Committee Thursday on House Bill (HB) 1, their bipartisan legislation to modernize Ohio’s primary and secondary school funding formula. HB 1 is identical to HB 305, the Cupp-Patterson Fair School Funding Plan, which overwhelmingly passed the House in December, 87-9 with 72 co-sponsors. 

“After years under a K-12 funding system that is all too often unpredictable, erratic, irrational, and unfair to students and communities, Ohio is closer than it has ever been to a real, constitutional, and fair system of school funding,” Rep. Sweeney said. “House Bill 1 would fully and finally address Ohio’s broken school funding system, replacing it with a transparent, predictable, and scalable model that Ohioans can count on for generations.”

Known as the “Fair School Funding Plan,” HB 1 builds on three years of feedback from the state’s leading education professionals representing Ohio school districts from Lake Erie to the Ohio River and everywhere in between.  Sweeney and Callender highlighted areas of concern expressed by the Fair School Funding Workgroup, including problems with the current base cost per pupil, the method of distribution of state funds to districts, growth caps within the formula, and tensions surrounding the transfer of funds from resident districts to community schools. 

“Since Ohio first formed as a state, ensuring our students have access to a quality education has been a major priority,” said Rep. Callender. “House Bill 1 works to correct years of patchwork state spending to help reduce reliance by local school districts on property tax dollars, while ensuring a logical and fair funding mechanism is put in place for students today and tomorrow.”

The Fair School Funding Plan calculates the true base cost to holistically educate a child in Ohio today. This includes everything from appropriate pupil/teacher ratios and addressing the social, emotional, and safety needs of students, to funding academic and athletic extra-curricular activities and new technology in the classroom.

HB 1 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. The new model would more accurately reflect the relative capacity of Ohio’s 610 districts to support their primary and secondary institutions and more properly frame a community’s ability to participate in this shared responsibility.

In addition, HB 1 allocates additional funding to serve each student who has additional needs, including those who are economically disadvantaged, require special or gifted education, or are English language learners. Each component was modified with input from practitioners and children advocates from across Ohio. The plan also advances funding and initiatives for career technical education in schools and Education Service Centers (ESCs). There was also a special emphasis on transportation.

From FY2013 through FY2019, the average annual increase in the state’s K-12 funding was approximately $294 million. Sweeney and Callender noted a six-year phase-in of the Plan requires $333 million additional dollars a year for K-12 education funding. The Representatives stressed that the existing tax structure within Ohio will accommodate the funding increase without raising taxes, if the General Assembly chooses to adopt the Fair School Funding Plan.

HB 1 now awaits further hearings in the Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education. The Fair School Funding Plan has 62 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.