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Ohio’s school funding overhaul – can it be done this year?

The 74 Million and The Columbus Dispatch |

The proposed “Fair Funding Formula,” a bipartisan plan developed over three years, has wide support from legislators and cautious optimism from school districts and teachers across the state.

It might finally end Ohio’s over-reliance on local property taxes to pay for schools, which the Supreme Court has said makes the system inequitable. It changes how Ohio would handle funding for poor districts, for growing districts and for charter schools and private school tuition vouchers. It also creates a structure for determining what it costs to give a student a proper education.

How much damage the recession will cause to the state budget is still to be determined, particularly as the state continues setting records for COVID-19 cases. Before the recent surge, Ohio’s unemployment rate had fallen to 8 percent in September, down from more than 17 percent in April. The state also reported last month that several economic indexes showed the state recovering from spring pandemic business shutdowns.

But state officials are warning that the state could still be $2 billion short of projections next year and may have to dip into its $2.7 billion rainy day fund to avoid massive cuts, House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, said at a public forum last week. Any federal aid to schools could also help.

But after all that work, it looks like the bipartisan team might come up short as the clock runs out on the 133rd General Assembly. 

“I have made no commitments that we are moving it; just that we are hearing it,” said Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  “They’ve done a lot of good work, but I think there are still things to work on.”

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