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Ohio's K-12 school groups blast Republican Senate budget as ‘anti-public education’

 A classroom with tables, chairs and brightly colored school supplies.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Groups that represent Ohio's public schools say the budget passed by Republicans in the Senate cuts school funding from the House budget, while significantly increasing spending for taxpayer-paid private school vouchers.

Republican state Senators say their budget plan passed last week increases funding for public education by $1.3 billion. But education groups say they’re underfunding public schools to expand taxpayer-paid private school vouchers to nearly every family that wants them.

A report prepared for groups representing Ohio's public school boards and district business officials and administrators says the Senate budget cuts the House budget's funding for public school districts by $541 million and increases private school voucher spending by $372 million. And the report from the Ohio Education Policy Institute says the Senate budget's increase in private school vouchers accounts for 37% of the total increase for K-12 funding.

“This Senate budget is one of the most anti-public education budgets that I've seen in my 32 years in education," said Scott DiMauro, the president of the state’s largest teachers union, the Ohio Education Association.

“They are providing universal school vouchers to subsidize wealthy people's decisions to send their kids to private schools. This doesn't do anything to ensure that every single student, regardless of where they live, has access to a high quality education," DiMauro said. “Public schools serve close to 90% of Ohio students. Yet public education is getting short shrift in this budget.”

DiMauro said the Senate budget also cuts an increase in minimum teacher salaries that the House approved.

Republicans have a supermajority in both the House and Senate. The House budget passed with widespread bipartisan support. The Senate budget passed with no votes from Democrats.

Senate leadership said their chamber's budget uses the updated 2022 salary and spending criteria to determine the base cost in its school funding formula, and then adds $1.3 billion to school funding. Senate Republicans said total foundation funding for students in public schools is a record $9.3 billion in the first year of the budget and almost $9.6 billion in the second.

But the OEPI report says the Senate budget modifies that funding plan "in such a way that local property taxpayers will now be responsible for funding 61.5% of a school district’s base funding while the state will now fund only 38.5%." The OEPI’s Howard Fleeter said the state share of base funding was almost exactly that percentage just before the ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court that the property tax based school funding system was unconstitutional in 1997. A new funding formula was developed in 1999, and the state share eventually increased to 47.2% in 2011. But it’s gradually fallen since then.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.