Editorial: Finally, a school funding plan

About a quarter century ago, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered state lawmakers to restructure the state’s property tax method for funding public schools, ruling it was imbalanced and unconstitutional. It did not allow equal access to quality educational opportunities to all students in the state, the High Court ruled.

In 1997, the state Supreme Court ruled, in the DeRolph v. State of Ohio case, that the school funding system was unconstitutional, and it was most recently reaffirmed in 2002.

Those who lived in wealthy communities are advantaged greatly over other students in less affluent communities. Kids attending schools in economically depressed areas of the state — what was for years called the “Rust Belt” — were especially disadvantaged.

The schools those more urban communities could provide were too often, very often, woefully inadequate, especially compared with their moneyed counterparts. The imbalance was obvious to the court, it was obvious to families and everyone else.

And although they were ordered to fix it, lawmakers could not, would not, did not and didn’t seem to even try very hard to get it fixed. The failure to address this perplexing problem has been a hallmark of our state government, the standard it achieved as accepting of failure.

It looks more promising today than anytime since 1997 that lawmakers have approved a plan that might achieve the goal of equal opportunities in education. Under the Fair School Funding Plan, that state must consider local incomes and property values to determine how much of the per pupil cost of a good education a school district should be able to cover on its own.

Their base amount, or the cost to educate the average student, will be determined by local costs instead of a uniform, statewide average, “a totally different way of looking at school funding,” one official called it.

We’re going to keep our fingers crossed, but we’re hopeful this is a solution that helps every student in Ohio reach their potential.

— Sandusky Register