July 30, 2014

Kasich School Funding Plan Falls Short for Property Poor Districts

Gov. John Kasich released his much-anticipated education plan last week – a plan he once boasted would be the best in the country. Its hallmark was the claim that it would fix Ohio’s disparity in property wealth by having the State pick up the cost to bring all districts up to $250,000 in per pupil valuation on 20 mills – a measure reached by just 4% of Ohio districts on their own.

It sounded great – nearly every district would get more money, and the poorest would get the most. He even received plaudits from many media members.

However, reality has proven otherwise. Looking at Kasich’s own district-by-district runs released yesterday, poor districts actually fare worse than wealthy. According to administration figures, for every dollar going to a kid in the property richest school districts, just 25 cents goes to the property poorest districts.

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The top 1/3 of districts based on property wealth — or the ability to raise money on a mill — fare best under the Kasich plan, when comparing FY15 to FY13.

And don’t forget that the only reason districts do “better” (compared to last fiscal year) in the Kasich budget is because of a large pot of so-called “guarantee” money that Kasich has warned he is going to take away later. The administration is also comparing the new budget with last year, essentially locking in the devastating $1.8 billion in education cuts that were made in his previous budget. Compared with funding pre-Kasich taking office, nearly all districts are actually getting cut. Significantly.

Why do Kasich’s own data do the exact opposite of what he claims – that is, help wealthy districts more than the poor?

The Kasich Administration is equalizing based on per pupil valuation – the amount of money districts raise in relationship to how many children the districts educate. However, that is not how property wealth is defined in the real world of Ohio school finance.

The true disparity in Ohio’s property tax, as the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on four different occasions, is in the capacity of school districts to raise revenue, not in the relationship between the school district’s locally raised revenue and the number of pupils it has. Though there certainly is disparity there, it is not nearly as stark.

The inequity in Ohio’s property tax base, and the reason why the Ohio Supreme Court ruled four different times that over-reliance on property taxes is unconstitutional, is because in order for kids in Bettsville Local to have the same opportunities as kids in Olentangy do, they will have to levy more than 158 mills for every mill voters in Olentangy raise.

Yet Kasich’s plan increases Olentangy by more than 300% and Bettsville is flatlined. What more can be said?

 

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