“Best School Funding Formula in the Country” on Administrative Leave

Gov. John Kasich’s administration yesterday confirmed what has long been suspected: Kasich’s brash claim that ditching Gov. Ted Strickland’s Evidence Based Model of School Funding and developing a new one within a year probably won’t happen, even for next school year. Less than a year after declaring he’s going to develop the best school funding model in the country, Kasich’s finding it’s perhaps more complicated than his bumper-sticker understanding of the issue made it seem.

That means for Kasich’s first biennial budget, it appears that Ohio will have the dubious distinction of being the only state in the country that doesn’t have a school funding formula.

The problem is two-fold. First, Kasich’s so-called “Bridge Formula” (which isn’t in fact a formula at all), and the district-by-district projections that accompanied his budget this year assumed a new formula in the second year of the biennium. His deputies said during legislative hearings that districts shouldn’t rely on the second year of their projections for that reason. How the state will bridge to the new formula in year two of the binnium is now uncertain for districts. Even more disturbing is it appears from the Dispatch story that the Administration hasn’t even tested any formulas by doing projections, runs or other analysis.

Second of all, Kasich and his Legislative Allies have made it very clear they have zero intention of providing any property tax relief to address the incredible funding inequities that led to four Ohio Supreme Court rulings ordering the state to reduce the property tax burden on local districts.

House Finance Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz told the Dispatch: “When you don’t have significantly more money, it makes it harder to make any bigger changes. You create winners and losers. We don’t know how much money we’re going to have.”

Looks like this crowd is doubling down on residually budgeting education, even though the Ohio Supreme Court ruled four times that practice was unconstitutional. The court ordered the state four times to figure out how much education costs, then fund it without overrelying on property taxes.

Kasich and his allies have nearly 20 years of school funding research, formula development and even a year of the School Funding Advisory Council studying these issues in depth. It’s not like Kasich has to reinvent the wheel on determining education’s cost in Ohio. He simply has to look at what many Ohioans have done already.

And don’t buy into the “where’s the money coming from” argument either. For example, to fund Strickland’s Evidence Based Model would have required the state to commit barely more than one percent of the budget each year for 10 years. Yet Kasich and his Legislative Allies refuse to make even that small commitment, which, by the way, would have meant about an average $400 property tax cut for every $100,000 Ohio home.

The education reform of 2009, which included much more than the EBM, received the Frank Newman Award from the Education Commission of the States for being the country’s most “bold, courageous, non-partisan” education reform of 2009. The commission was chaired then by former Republican Gov. and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.

Let’s hope Kasich’s formula, whenever it’s completed (if it’s ever completed), receives similar accolades.

Ohio’s kids deserve no less.