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How the House's School Funding Plan is Different, and What People are Saying About It

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Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Representative Ron Amstutz is the chair of the Ohio House Finance Committee.

Yesterday, Ohio House Republicans dealt several blows to Gov. John Kasich's budget proposal, including some significant changes to his school funding plan.

The biggest difference between Kasich’s proposal and the House’s is how school districts' base levels are calculated.

Kasich's plan aimed to equalize funding between poor and rich districts by basing school funding on local property values and how much money a district can raise through local tax levies.

The House wants to estimate the basic cost of an education for an average student and use that as the basis for school funding. They came up with about $5,720 per pupil for that base cost.

In both plans, districts would get extra funding for things like special education students, gifted kids, poverty and students learning English.

The House's version may sound familiar. Ohio used to fund schools a similar way under Gov. Bob Taft. That method was known as the building blocks model.

So why propose something similar to what the state already used once?

"Because it was a pretty good system," Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster), the chair of the House Education Committee, said yesterday.

What People Are Saying About the House's Version

Howard Fleeter of the Education Tax Policy Institute says funding districts by estimating how much an education should cost "works better" in the long run. The costs of education are relatively stable, compared to home values, he says.

[related_content align="right"]"You’re never going to have unanimous agreement," Fleeter says.  "But at least if you can get general agreement that it looks at the right things, it makes reasonable attempts to figure out what the different components are, then that’s the right way for us to be proceeding. And I think the House has paved the way for that process."

Tom Ash with the Buckeye Association of School Administrators says he's glad to see fewer schools are on so-called "guarantees" that ensure their funding levels stay they same regardless of student population under the House plan. He says the House plan is also "going to give some additional weight to those districts that are rural and primarily agricultural."

And the Michelle Rhee-led school reform group StudentsFirst also had positive things to say about the House's budget proposal.

"We welcome the expansion of school choice and the flexibility given to school districts to pay teachers based on their performance," StudentsFirst state director Greg Harris said in a statement yesterday. The statement also said StudentsFirst "will continue to advocate for a student-centric model that allows funding to follow the child – regardless of school type."

Some other elements of Kasich's school funding proposal were omitted from the House version, like a parent trigger proposal that would would have given parents who students attend poorly performing schools the ability to restructure their schools. That proposal may resurface in a separate piece of legislation later this year.

The House fund also cut in half Kasich's proposal to create a $300 million competitive grant program for schools pursuing innovate programs and cost-savings efforts. The House version cuts funding for that program in half.

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