Of all the topics that the state legislature has addressed in the past 15 years, making serious efforts to correct and improve Ohio’s public school funding formula has seemed to mostly slip through the cracks. Since 1997, when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the system by which public schools in the state were funded was unconstitutional, very few things have been done to reform the system.

The major problem the state faces when it comes to making sure our public elementary and high schools receive the monetary support they need is the fact that a school district’s funding is primarily based on property taxes within the district. In poor school districts where property tax revenue is low, the schools have a difficult time keeping up and maintaining facilities. Considering that there are a number of areas where public schools must abide by state guidelines and curriculum, it makes sense that the system of funding schools should be brought at least closer to equal.

Some things have been done to bring the funding formula into constitutional compliance, such as the creation of the School Facilities Commission. Under that commission, poorer schools were given higher preference and received a bigger share of state funding for the construction of new facilities. By placing the schools with the highest needs first, the state was able to ensure that school districts had access to new buildings.

But that doesn’t mean the system was made perfect, or even that it was up to the standards that would provide the best possible environment for our youth to earn a quality education. There are still existing problems that need to be looked at and eventually solved. It is important to point out, however, that questions that have been in place for 15 years will not yield quick or easy answers. Our mission should not be to settle on the first proposal for fixing the problem, but rather to look at them and consider all avenues before settling for the best solution.

Over the coming months, Ohio House members will be hearing testimony from parents, teachers and school administrators, as well as other citizens who have ideas for how to fix our school funding system. The suggestions proposed in these discussions will then be used to develop a plan moving forward for how best to handle the funding problems our schools are faced with. I encourage all of you to be vocal in this process if you have ideas that you believe will help Ohio’s schools and, ultimately, Ohio’s students.


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