IO: Sen. Widener Wrong; $400 Million Would Have Huge Impact on Ohio Schools

For Immediate Release: November 13, 2013
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

IO: Sen. Widener Wrong; $400 Million Would Have Huge Impact on Ohio Schools

Columbus — Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a new study today which shows that an extra $400 million in state funding would have a dramatic impact on Ohio schools and education programs. The report can be accessed here.

$400 million is the estimated savings Ohio will realize from Medicaid expansion; the General Assembly is now debating how the money should be spent. IO’s study directly contradicts a recent claim by state Sen. Chris Widener (R-Springfield) that $400 million would have a “minimal impact” on schools —and should instead be used to pay for another state income tax cut. IO found that the impact on schools would be both “profound and dramatic.”

Joining IO and making remarks at today’s news conference were Sam Reynolds, Superintendent of Manchester Local Schools near Akron, and Becky Higgins, President of the Ohio Education

Among the Report’s findings:

  • $400 million is more than what the state spends on K-3 Literacy (the “Third-Grade Reading Guarantee”), Gifted Education, Career Tech Education, Limited English Proficiency Education and half of the state’s six Special Education categories combined;
  • $400 million exceeds the entire amounts currently spent on both economically disadvantaged aid and school transportation (busing);
  • If the $400 million was divided up among the state’s 613 school districts, the impact would be equally profound. The Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo city school districts, for example, would receive $25 million, $15 million and nearly $13 million, respectively;
  • $400 million could also mean dramatic property tax relief for many school districts, especially those that are smaller, rural or have low property values. Youngstown schools, for example, would receive the equivalent of a 9.75 millage reduction, while Lima city schools’ reduction would be 6.8 mills.

Said IO Communications Director Dale Butland:

“It would be a shame if the $400 million our state saves from Medicaid expansion was diverted into another income tax cut favoring the wealthiest Ohioans. One study found it would mean giving the richest 1% an average annual tax cut of over $1,400 –and that’s on top of the more than $6,000 they’re getting from the tax cut included in the state budget passed in July. Meanwhile, middle income taxpayers earning up to $54,000 would, on average, get a total tax cut of less than $40 from the two tax cuts put together.

“To their credit, some legislators have publicly indicated that they’re cool to the idea of another tax cut, especially when Ohioans have so many other unmet needs. So let’s have a reasoned conversation. As the 30% increase in ‘new money’ school operating levies show, our schools have real needs. So do our local governments. And certainly our state has other unmet needs as well. So instead of again lining the pockets of millionaires and billionaires with yet another tax cut, let’s use this $400 million in Medicaid savings to bring the greatest good to the greatest number of Ohioans.

“After all, middle class Ohioans aren’t stupid. They know an income tax cut of 40 bucks means little when it’s more than wiped out by higher local taxes for schools, police and fire protection. It’s long past time to end this shell game. Will the legislature listen? That’s the $400 million question.”

Read the report: “The Impact of $400 Million on Ohio Schools