State of the State’s Education Funding on Display in Medina

Gov. John Kasich has chosen Medina as the site of his next State of the State address in February. As he prepares for this event, it is helpful to understand what his two state budgets have done to schools in Medina City and County.

Children in Medina County schools will have $13.7 million less state revenue in the next two school years than they had in the two years prior to Kasich taking office. The Medina City school district alone saw its state funding decline by $4.4 million, or 9.6%.

Medina_City_SchoolsWhile state funding declines, school districts in the county are losing more to private and charter schools. Charter School payments — the amount of state funding transferred out of the accounts of traditional public school districts to charters — are up approximately one-third under Kasich to $4.37 million (up from $3.4 million). And that money is not funding success. In the 2011-2012 school year, every dollar transferred from a Medina County school to a charter went to one that performed worse on both the performance index score and state report card ranking — reflecting a disturbing statewide trend of money flowing from higher performing districts to lower performing charter schools.

At the same time, the expansion of the state’s voucher programs for private schools saw Medina County voucher payments explode — to $903,592 annually, up from zero in the time prior to Kasich taking office.

As a result of the state’s continuing focus on school choice, Medina County schools now receive 5.2% less state revenue per student than the state’s funding formula says they need.

Statewide, Kasich’s budgets have cut school funding by $515 million compared to four years earlier. But while public schools have less, charter schools in Ohio are now slated to receive $887 million this year — a 23% increase over the $722 million they received the year before Kasich took office. And taxpayer money being sent to private schools through vouchers has exploded from $79 million to $144 million — a whopping 83% increase.

Meanwhile, Kasich and his legislative allies — led by Medina’s own current Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder — have cut so much revenue to Batchelder’s home county schools that Medina County districts have put $70.8 million in property and income tax levies before voters since May 2011. Folks in Black River alone have faced property or income tax levies since Kasich took office, finally passing one in May 2013.

As Medina City Schools’ officials told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after the district passed a new levy Nov. 5:

“School officials said the 5.9-mill, five-year emergency levy was needed to avoid a $1.8 million deficit next year and restore services that were cut in previous years as state funding dropped.

The services to be restored include busing for students more than one mile from their school, instead of two miles.

Ten intervention teachers and six counselors will be hired, and five physical education, music and art teachers will work full-time instead of part-time. High school and middle school electives will also be offered again.”

While Gov. Kasich should be commended for taking his State of the State addresses around the state, we wish he had shown as much understanding for folks outside Columbus when he decided to slash funding to schools and communities, forcing those entities to ask even more of already overburdened local property taxpayers.

Remember the Ohio Supreme Court ruled four times that it was the state’s responsibility to reduce, not increase that burden.