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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Ohio Senate Republicans Unveil 'Sustainable' But Costly School Funding Overhaul

Ohio Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) explains a chart showing the Senate budget's formula for calculating per-student aid. [Karen Kasler / Statehouse News Bureau]
Ohio Senate Finance Committee chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) explains a chart showing the Senate budget's formula for calculating per-student aid.

Republican state Senators have unveiled a rewrite of the school funding overhaul in the House budget, which spends less per student but will be more expensive.

But the Ohio GOP legislators say it’s more sustainable and reliable for the future that the current system.

The Senate budget would lower the cost to educate a child, or per student aid, by $910 compared to the House budget, which set it at $7,020. Per student aid  is currently $6,020 in Ohio.

The Senate's formula is based on average teacher salary and benefits of more than $72,000 divided by a student/teacher ratio of 20:1. Teacher development days, administrative and other money is added to get a total of $6,110.

Senate Finance Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said this is the cost today.

“Two years from now, when they redo it, the average teacher salary cost may be different,” Dolan said. “The average teacher benefit cost may be different. And so on. But they’ll know what to put in the formula to determine the base cost of education.”

Other money, such as categoricals – funding for special education and gifted students, transportation and more – and economically disadvantaged aid is on top of that.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said this plan would provide more money to local districts, but “it is also more predictable and more sustainable. And that’s why we think it's a superior product.”

Senators also would restore $650 million of the $1.1 billion for counseling and other wellness programs for low-income students proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine that the House absorbed into its funding overhaul. Dolan had previously expressed concerns about those funds being used this way when it was intended for programs specifically designed to help those students catch up to their wealthier counterparts.

That makes the Senate plan more expensive than the House version.

The Senate will spend nearly $223 million more than the House plan, which was estimated at around $1.8 billion on top of the more than $10 billion the state already spends on K-12 education.

The Senate budget also includes direct funding of vouchers, as the House version does, with the money following the student. And the Senate budget increases EdChoice vouchers, which can be used by any student in a school building determined by the state to be “failing,” to $5,500 for K-8 kids and $7,500 for high schoolers.

The Senate is expected to approve the budget in a floor vote next week. Then a conference committee will be formed to reconcile the two versions of the budget and send it to DeWine before the June 30 deadline.

Groups that advocate for public education have supported the formula overhaul.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.