COLUMBUS — Senate Republicans on Thursday said they will pump $717 million more into basic aid for K-12 schools during the next two years in the budget they plan to approve next week.
“That’s an 11 percent increase to public school districts over the biennium,” Senate President Keith Faber (R., Celina) said. “In fact, that’s the largest increase as a percentage for the last 10 years or longer.”
That’s nearly $142 million more than what the House proposed when it passed its take on a $61.5 billion, two-year budget last month.
All of the numbers, however, are compared to the severe cuts that school districts received in the current two-year budget that will end on June 30.
Despite the higher overall dollar amount put into the basic K-12 pot, Toledo Public Schools would fare better under the House budget passed last month than under the Senate plan.
TPS would receive $210.5 million, or 6.25 percent more next year, under the Senate plan, just slightly lower than the House plan. It would receive $219.1 million next year, or 4.1 percent more, in the second year compared to a 6 percent hike under the House plan.
Toledo Public Schools Treasurer Matt Cleland had taken a preliminary look at the Senate proposal, but what he saw left him confused.
He pointed out that other Lucas County districts and some other large urban districts in Ohio would get much larger increases in 2015 than Toledo. He was unsure why.
Of the Ohio 8 coalition, which comprises the superintendents and teacher union presidents from Ohio’s eight urban school districts — Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown, nearly all would get increases of 10.5 percent in 2015, the maximum amount.
Only Youngstown and Toledo would not reach the cap, and Youngstown would still get more than a 9 percent bump.
“They only got 9, but it’s a hell of a lot better than 4 percent,” Mr. Cleland said.
He also said that much of the state funding to TPS would end up transferred to charter schools and vouchers for private schools.
The Senate would raise the caps on how much faster-growing and often wealthier suburban school districts could receive under the revamped funding formula.
The House had capped the annual increases in state aid to schools at 6 percent each year of the biennium. The Senate plan would cap increases at 6.25 percent in fiscal year 2014 and 10.5 percent in 2015.
For instance, Perrysburg School District in Wood County fares better under the Senate plan. In both the House and Senate versions, Perrysburg bumps up against the caps.
Perrysburg would receive $8.5 million and $9.4 million in the next two years under the Senate formula. Of the 612 districts, 242 are affected by the caps.
A total of 176 districts are flat-funded under the plan’s “guarantee,” the promise that no district will receive less money in the next two years than the year before even if a strict implementation of the new formula would be expected to cut its funding.
In addition to increased basic K-12 subsidies, the Senate plans to add a yet-to-be-determined increase in the Straight A Fund, a grant program proposed by Gov. John Kasich that would fund one-time innovation and efficiency programs at schools.
The House set the fund at $150 million.
The Senate plans to add $30 million more for early childhood learning programs and would provide $207 million to implement the new state law requiring that all third graders must be able to read before being promoted to the next grade.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.
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