Expert: School Funding Formula Gets Mixed Grades, Needs Work

Sep 6, 2019

Ohio lawmakers will soon consider a school funding formula overhaul, which has undergone some changes since it was first introduced in March.

Ohio school funding expert Howard Fleeter put together an analysis of the latest version of what's been called the Cupp-Patterson plan, HB 305, proposed by Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson).

Since its introduction in March, the Cupp-Patterson plan has some changes, including a variable rate of local share of funding, an increase to the base cost of $134 per pupil, an increase in a new targeted assistance category to help districts losing students to vouchers and charter schools, moving transportation funding outside the formula and phasing the plan in over six years rather than four years.

Fleeter is pleased about the increase in the overall base cost for educating students and that the aid to economically disadvantaged students was also boosted.

But he writes though there would be nearly $990 million in targeted assistance and capacity aid for the next fiscal year, that would be 20.3% below the last fiscal year’s funding levels. And he said that’s a problem because while all districts would benefit from the increase in the base cost, wealthier districts still have a big advantage over less wealthy districts in raising local revenue.

So, when all the math is done, Fleeter said if Cupp-Patterson were fully phased in, the gap between the poorest and wealthiest districts would be $1560 per equivalent pupil - which is only $23 smaller than it is under the current formula.

And Fleeter said the wealthiest districts would still get more resources than the poorest districts. His analysis shows the two highest wealth quintiles still have the highest state and local resources per equivalent pupil. (That's a measure the Ohio Department of Education uses to factor in the higher costs of educating students with disabilities, those who are learning English and those who are economically disadvantaged.)

“You’ve done all these good things in this plan, and yet, when the dust clears on it, it hasn’t closed that equity gap by very much at all," Fleeter said.

And Fleeter said a lot of money will be needed to bridge that gap.

An early cost estimate on the plan from Cupp and Patterson is $1.5 billion a year more than the state is already spending on education. That's up from a previous estimate, which counted on an increase over current spending of more than a billion dollars.

Fleeter  shared his report with the major public school groups, House Speaker Larry Householder, Senate President Larry Obhof, Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, and Reps. Cupp and Patterson.

Fleeter explains more of his analysis on "The State of Ohio" - available on demand here.