COLUMBUS — State lawmakers have given final approval to a new two-year, $71.2 billion budget that provides annual state funding increases averaging at least 3 percent for 329 school districts.
No district gets less state money than it is getting this year under the funding plan, which increases basic operating funds by about $600 million over two years — a number that Republicans say is actually closer to $1 billion, depending on how it’s calculated.
“Every district wants more. Every district got what they need,” said Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina.
“Districts losing student enrollment or who are getting a lot more in local revenue ought to anticipate that at some point their state revenues are going to adjust for that. This budget postpones that.”
The Senate voted 23-9 Thursday to give final approval to the budget, and the House followed this morning with a 62-33 vote, sending it to Gov. John Kasich, who will decide by June 30 what items he wants to strike with his line-item veto.
“There are thousands of kids out there like me where if they don’t get an education, statistically, they are going to be in jail,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton. ” We have the power to do something about that. We just have to choose to do it.”
Overall, 429 of Ohio’s 610 school districts get more money over the next two years, while the rest are essentially flat-funded.
The final formula is largely the Senate’s school-funding plan, with some alterations proposed by the House.
The state’s main public-school advocacy groups favored the House funding proposal, arguing that even though most districts fared better over the next two years under the Senate formula, the House plan was better for schools in the long term.
“We think some progress was made toward appropriately addressing those lowest-capacity districts,” Barbara Shaner, of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, said of the final compromise. “We’ll continue to work with them to make further improvements.”
School advocates are pleased with the increased funding and the fact that no district loses state funds over two years. They also like the formula change that took $150 million the Senate had set aside for technology and instead put it into the capacity-aid portion of the budget that targets money to low-wealth districts.
There remains concern, Shaner said, about what happens to some districts as the tangible personal property tax reimbursements continue to phase out.
The plan spends $15.8 billion over two years in basic operational funding for K-12 education, similar to the amount proposed by the Senate and about $64 million less than the House-passed plan.
About 40 percent of all new money over the two years would go to midsize and major urban districts, while 31 percent is targeted toward rural districts and 11 percent goes to suburban schools.
“Despite what’s going to be written or said in the editorial pages around the state, this is a good plan for K-12 education,” said Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield. “It’s not been politicized. It’s not been catered to one member’s district over another. It is a formula that is driving to those most in need.”
Compared with the Senate-passed funding plan, 239 districts get less money in 2017 under the final compromise, while 193 districts do better.