Monday, February 6, 2017

20 Years Later, Ohio Still Unconstitutionally Funds Schools

In 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled for the first of four times that the way Ohio funded its schools violated the state's constitutional responsibility to provide a "thorough and efficient" education to all kids because, for the most part, we relied too much on local property taxes to pay for schools. 

Twenty years later, Ohio's looking again at a continuation of a steady de-commitment to the only specifically mandated thing Ohio's legislature is supposed to do -- fund public schools.

And this year's budget will make the problem worse if it isn't changed by the legislature. Why is that? Because the districts that will receive less state funding under Gov. John Kasich's budget are the districts least able to cope with those cuts -- small, rural districts, 83 percent of which will be cut. That's because they raise local revenue at a 116 percent lower rate than the districts that received flat or increased funding.

As you can see, it is difficult to understand how this budget won't make the unconstitutional problem worse for kids in rural districts. 

Piggybacking on that, Ohioans are now paying more than ever in local property taxes for their schools -- a fact that more than anything proves that Ohio's school funding system remains unconstitutional.

This is what happens when the state steps away from the table at historic levels, as it did in 2011. Then refuses to develop a school funding formula that accurately costs out educational needs. Then continues to arbitrarily spend money in a haphazard way to create winners and losers out of a system that should only produce winners.

As Ohio legislators begin questioning administration officials about the latest budget, there is really only one question that needs answered: How does increasing the need for local property tax levies meet the state's constitutional mandate to reduce them?


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