PoliticsOhio: Senate Education Chair On Governor's School Plan
Governor Kasich has released his long awaited plan for funding Ohio’s schools. Kettering Republican Senator Peggy Lehner is the Chair of the Senate Education Committee. She joins McCord to discuss the impact of the Governor's education proposal.
Emily McCord: One of the key points of the Governor plan is to give more funding to lower income school districts where property values don’t generate the same amount of money. Can you explain how this will work?
Peggy Lehner: (laughs) Well, you know, like all school funding plans, this one is complicated. At its simplest, there’s a certain amount of money that they expect the locals to be able to produce. It works out to the equivalent to 250 thousand dollars in property value per student. Many communities do not have the kind of property value that is that high. Those communities that do not have 250 thousand dollars in property value per student will receive additional funding from the state to make up that difference, thus creating equity across the board. So, regardless of how poor a community may be, they’re going to bring each district up to a certain level of funding.
EM: I know we don’t know the breakdown yet specifically; can you point to examples of school districts in the Miami Valley that will benefit in particular?
PL: Well certainly the city of Dayton schools will benefit. Most of our communities are going to get substantially more money from the state under this formula. Some of them won’t. Frankly, Oakwood won’t be receiving much in this part of the formula at all. The governor divided the property wealth of the districts across the state into five quintiles. The highest quintiles are not going to get funded in this part of the formula. But it’s important to keep in mind that this is only part of the formula. On top of that, the governor has added a lot of money for other things. For example, every district will get $50 per student to fund gifted programs. They’re going to have access to a $180 million fund to help disadvantaged students make up the reading gap. All of our schools, including the Oakwoods of this world, the Centervilles, will have access to those kind of funds regardless of what they get in the basic formula.
EM: Democrats and teachers unions are saying that the Governor did not restore the $1.8 billion in state budget cuts from 2011. Beavercreek schools for example are not exactly considered a poorer school district but they have had failed levies and budget cuts. Are these schools like that going to get any relief?
PL: Well, that’s disingenuous on part of the Democrats because they know full well that 1.8 billion was largely federal stimulus dollars. It was one-time money that came in here at the height of the recession. Everyone knew it was one-time money and it went away. They’re playing political games with this. They’ve also accused the governor of not being involved in the decision making. Well, I don’t remember any governor who brings in the opposite party and sits down with them to design their budget. He really put politics aside here and tried to address, ‘how do we start paying for those things that really make a difference with our kids?’ Everyone knows our schools are not doing as well as they should be doing and we can’t just keep on doing things the same old way. Every school is going to see additional money under this budget. There’s not a single school in the state that’s going to get cut. Overall, this year, we will spend 7% more on education in Ohio than we did last year and next year we will spend 4% above that. So, an 11% increase in spending in the budget is a substantial commitment to education in the state of Ohio.
EM: Another aspect of this plan is 8.5 million dollars in fiscal year 2014 for vouchers to private schools, and then 17 million the following year, so that students at 200 percent below the poverty level would be eligible. Where is the funding coming from for this plan?
PL: This is all coming from the general revenue fund. So, while we haven’t seen the details, and of course we’re going to be looking very closely at those details in the weeks ahead, I have full faith that the budget that the governor’s going to give us on Monday is going to explain to us very clearly how this additional money has been found and reallocated to pay for our school system.
There are still many unknown details surrounding Governor Kasich’s education funding plan. School districts will find out more specifics next week. But as Emily McCord reports, some school districts are going to get more relief than others.
The thrust of Kasich’s plan is to address the funding gap between poor and rich school districts by infusing state money into areas that don’t generate higher amounts of property tax dollars. Kettering Republican Peggy Lehner is the chair of the Senate Education committee. She says Cities like Dayton will benefit but other places that have more wealth may not be getting much help. But she says to important to remember that’s only part of the equation.
For example, every district will get $50 per student to fund gifted programs. They’re going to have access to an $180 million fund to help disadvantaged students make up the reading gap. All of our schools, including the Oakwoods of this world, the Centervilles, will have access to those kind of funds regardless of what they get in the basic formula
Centerville schools recently cut 2.6 million dollars from its budget after its levy failed in November. Lehner says the state is increasing school spending to 11% over the next two years. She says that demonstrates the governor’s commitment to education in Ohio.