Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Does Kasich School Funding Plan Dip into Local Revenue?

Gov. John Kasich's released the much anticipated district-by-district runs on his school funding changes. And (as is usually the case with initial runs), it's difficult to compare. That's because the governor's office decideed to tell you whether you got a cut or increase based on your total state and local revenue. Which, of course, hides the massive Robin Hooding that's going on in this latest incarnation of Kasich's school funding plan.

But what's amazing is when you strip away the percentages in the released sheets and look at the percentages in just state aid. When that happens, you see that Beachwood, Mayfield Heights and Cuyahoga Heights lose more money than they received in this school year in state aid, raising a very legitimate question: Is the state essentially dipping into those districts' local tax dollars to pay for this scheme?

This massive cut happens because they lose significant chunks of the reimbursement payments for lost tangible personal property and public utility taxes, but it's still a milestone. This is Robin Hooding of the first order -- a severe redistribution of wealth. What this also shows is how inadequate the overall amount  really is. If you have to remove the equivalent of a district's state aid payment (I don't care how wealthy they are) to make the formula work better for the most needy districts, then you don't have enough money in the formula.

This reality is well hidden in the district simulations because the cut and increase percentages are relative to a district's state and local aid -- a column that's never before been used in a state school funding simulation. So while, for example, the governor's runs show that Orange will lose 1.7% of its funding next year, it will really lose 32.3% of its total state aid. Again, the way these sheets have always been used is to compare state to state aid -- apples to apples, if you will.

Kasich's team has tried to bury a very nasty little fact in their simulations -- they are bleeding the funding from wealthy districts to fund less wealthy districts because they don't want to commit enough state money to make their own formula work for everyone. And that's a shame.