Report: Ohio schools cutting back in wake of state budget reductions

Policy Matters Ohio has released its annual survey of how districts are coping with state budget cuts. Not surprisingly, districts are cutting way back. Coupled with IO’s release last week that took a look at the statewide total ask for new operating money at the local level — an amount that’s up to $1.3 billion since May 2011 — and it’s clear that the decisions at the state level are having consequences locally.

Just a few examples of the cuts being made, according to the Policy Matters report.

  • Eighty-four percent said they reduced or froze compensation;
  • Eighty-two percent said they reduced staff;
  • Fifty-seven percent cut materials, supplies, textbooks or equipment;
  • Forty-three percent reported larger class sizes;
  • Twenty-three percent had reduced course offerings;
  • Twenty-two percent introduced pay-to-play for extracurricular activities, or reduced extracurricular offerings.

For those who think districts should make cuts before asking for additional local revenue, it’s clear that they’ve already been doing that. Clearly, few opportunities remain to make up for cuts through “efficiencies” given that four-fifths of districts have already reduced staff and benefits. The options that are left mean fewer resources in the classroom where it hits kids directly, or new tax levies on the ballot.

In essence, this research proves the obvious: state budget cuts mean cuts to services and higher taxes at the local level.

Policy Matters also noted in its work that if Ohio had simply kept pace with inflation since the DeRolph case was dropped by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2002, Ohio’s kids would have $1.2 billion more in state money than they would in the last year of this budget as currently constituted. That’s fewer cuts, lower property taxes and better-educated kids.

How, exactly, can one be against all that? Perhaps it’s time some in Columbus were asked that question.