Over the last two years, state representatives Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) have worked with Ohio’s education community and other stakeholders to develop a new school funding formula. Although the DeWine-Husted Administration and lawmakers declined to adopt the proposal as part of the FY 20-21 state budget (HB 166), Reps Cupp / Patterson have since introduced stand-alone legislation (HB 305) that contains what they have titled the “Fair School Funding Plan.” Last month, the Ohio House Finance Committee began deliberations on the bill.
Given the high level of complexity associated with school funding, the Chairman of the Ohio House Finance Committee has indicated that “hearings will be broken up into narrow topic areas, so committee members and witnesses may have targeted dialogue on specific aspects of the legislation.” Topic areas include, but are not limited to, distribution, categorical funding or “add-ons,” transportation, charter schools, career-technical education and STEM schools.
Overview: In general, HB 305 calls for a “base cost” approach to calculate the annual per-pupil cost of providing a quality education to Ohio’s students. The current formula sets a base cost of $6,020 for every single student, but under HB 305, the state would calculate a base cost unique to each school district in order to more accurately reflect the amount of funding each district needs to operate effectively. The base cost for each district would range from $6,000 - $12,000.
Funding for classroom teachers is the primarily building block of the proposed framework, which applies pupil / teacher ratios supported by national research and Ohio salary / benefit data. Other components include resources for professional development of teachers, addressing health, safety, social, and emotional needs of students, academic and athletic co-curricular activities, and technology. Funding the base cost is achieved through a combination of state resources and locally generated tax revenue. Under HB 305 (and similar to the current formula), the split between state and local funding is based on each district’s fiscal capacity to generate a local share—which capacity the state will measure using a combination of both property and income wealth data.
Career-Technical Education: The career-technical education community has emphasized several school funding policy priorities since legislators began to develop HB 305. As a result, the bill includes the following CTE-specific items:
1. CTE Tiered (“weighted”) Funding: HB 305 maintains current levels of CTE tiered funding outside any proposed “cap” or “guarantee.” The bill converts the current dollar amounts in each of the five tiers to percentages of the statewide average funding per pupil, as calculated under the Base Cost formula. Hence, any increases to base aid will result in a corresponding increase in CTE tiered funding.
2. Career Exploration: HB 305 provides per-pupil funding to career-technical planning districts (CTPDs) for purposes of delivering relevant career awareness services, including:
- Offering a common, consistent curriculum to students across the CTPD;
- Assisting teachers in providing a career-development curriculum;
- Establishing a Career Development Plan for each student;
- Providing opportunities for students to engage in meaningful activities across all career pathways at each grade level.
3. Base Aid Funding: HB 305 maintains base aid for career-technical schools through its new funding model. But while a student is in a career-technical program or “lab,” the required pupil teacher ratio will be calculated at one teacher for every eighteen students. The new (smaller) ratio recognizes the necessity of increased student attention during equipment-intensive technical courses.
Ohio ACTE will continue to monitor HB 305 and any other school funding proposals as the legislature continues to discuss this important issue.
- by Will Vorys, attorney with Dickinson Wright and Ohio ACTE Legislative Counsel.
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