Get school funding formula right

The long-sought goal is in sight of establishing a new K-12 public education funding formula for Ohio to replace the existing model that has been deemed unconstitutional. But it’s essential that Ohio General Assembly get this one right.

The authors of a revised plan, state Reps. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson), briefed the General Assembly’s House Finance Committee this month about House Bill 305. It’s another attempt after the original funding revision plan in June was not well received.

The intent is to adopt the school formula as a stand-alone law, rather than incorporate into the biennial budget, a process that is vulnerable to behind-closed-doors shenanigans. Ohio’s more than 600 school districts have long waited for an overhaul of the per-pupil funding formula.

The 1997 ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court found the state’s funding formula unconstitutional because it forced districts to depend heavily on local property taxes, an advantage only in districts with high property values. But the formula has been tweaked, not fundamentally corrected.

The Cupp-Patterson formula seeks to base the funding of schools on the educational services that children need, an ordering of priorities that will require a commitment from the General Assembly to properly fund.

The formula is to be based on actual costs of teachers and administration. Also an improvement over current policy is that Cupp-Patterson funds charter school students and Ed Choice scholarships directly, instead of deducting it from the per-pupil funding of the students’ home public schools.

An earlier version of the Cupp-Patterson plan failed to balance the resources of the state more evenly in favor of poor districts. It provided flat funding for the state’s largest and neediest districts, including Toledo, Cleveland, Dayton, and Youngstown. The low test scores earned by the students in these districts is proof that much needs to be done to better finance education in those districts.

One of the 66 Ohio House members signing as co-sponsors of H.B.305 was state Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D., Toledo). She says the question is, “What is the real price tag so that every child is educated to the best of that child’s ability?”

Mr. Cupp and Mr. Patterson call their bill the Fair School Funding Plan.

That is yet to be proven. But it’s a start.

— The Toledo Blade; Online: