Senate claims of increasing school funding ring hollow

Since Senate Republicans announced their school funding plan last week, they have consistently touted it as having increased school funding, going as far as calling the increase unprecedented.

But the fact is, it’s only an increase when you squint your eyes and do some mathematical gymnastics.

When you directly compare the plans — something that requires backing out transportation and career tech funding (which the Governor did not include in his budget numbers) — the Senate plan actually provides $80 million less funding than the Governor’s initial proposal. The only way it counts as an increase is if you compare it to the House plan, which cut $200 million from the Governor’s plan.

In all three cases (the Governor’s budget or the House or Senate modifications), funding for education is significantly below where it was in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. The only way legislators can claim to increase funding is when they compare to the past two-year budget (FYs 2012-2013) which contained historic cuts to education totaling $1.8 billion. In total, this budget restores less than $1 billion of that amount, leaving most districts below where they were in 2010-2011.

Without full restoration of the 2012-13 cuts, districts are faced with a choice of making painful cuts or raising taxes. According to Policy Matters Ohio, 82% of districts have cut staff, 43% have increased class sizes and 23% have reduced course offerings. Our research found that $1.1 billion in new operating funds for schools have appeared on local ballots since Governor Kasich first proposed these cuts.

Beyond the statewide numbers, another way to look at the budget is how individual districts fare. Under the Senate plan, 154 districts will receive less money in FYs 2014-15 than they got in FY 13. This is up from 126 districts that were cut in the House plan.

Is there a greater indictment of a plan’s unconstitutionality than putting more money in it, but shorting¬†more¬†districts? I can’t think of one.

The Senate is set to finalize its changes to the budget this afternoon, after which a conference committee will be assigned to work out the differences with the House. The bill must be signed by the Governor by June 30.