By: Mackenzie Hollis (Reaching Heights Intern, Summer of 2023)
Phase II of the Fair School Funding Plan has been fully funded by the Ohio 2022-2023 Fiscal Year Budget. The Fair School Funding Plan is a part of Ohio’s budget process that occurs every two years. The plan completely changes the way Ohio’s public schools are funded by implementing a new formula. When this plan is implemented statewide, it will directly affect the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools.
In the past, state lawmakers deemed an amount they were willing to pay per-pupil based on no scientific calculation, just an overall willingness from the state legislator. Jan Resseger, a Cleveland Heights-University Heights community member researching education policy in the state of Ohio states that the Fair School Funding Plan creates a formula for per-pupil spending based on district needs and cost of services that is tied to inflation, property value, and income.
Full funding on Phase II will put this formula on track to equally spread revenue across schools in the state of Ohio based on district need. Resseger states: “adequacy, equity, and reliability are how a school finance formula should be and the Fair School Funding plan aims to achieve this.” It is a financing formula that is adequate enough to cover basic costs, equitable in terms of property tax bases across different districts, and reliable enough that districts will feel they can count on it when planning for the future.
The funding of Phase II will increase state funds gradually between 2023 and 2025 for Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools. CH-UH has 4,841 students enrolled across 11 schools and as of 2023 was receiving about $10,432,363 from the state. Shaker Schools has about 4,545 students enrolled across eight schools and was receiving around $15,860,287 from the state in fiscal year 2023.
These statistics are very similar aside from the $5,000,000 difference in state funding between the two schools. Cleveland Heights-University Heights School funding fell behind Shaker when vouchers were funded by school district deduction. It was then that CH-UH lost significantly more money to vouchers than Shaker. Scott Gainer, the Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer for CH-UH, stated that the funding of Phase II will raise the total state obligation to $15,869,609 by 2025 for the CH-UH schools. This will bring the state funding of CH-UH schools up to around that of Shaker Schools. Shaker’s funds are estimated to remain around the same even with the Fair School Funding Plan. This is because the plan is
aiming for equitable funding, helping the districts that receive less state aide and bringing them into alignment with other districts that are receiving more, according to Gainer.
Although CH-UH will see an increase in state funding, these funds will only delay the next school levy by 1-2 years. For most school districts the state of Ohio provides less than half of funding for schools which means the rest is coming from local and federal dollars. The majority is from local property taxes with federal funding at approximately $4.47 million, according to Tanisha Pruitt at Policy Matters. The Fair School Funding Plan is only increasing state funding; it is not completely making up the amount that is needed from property taxes
resulting in a continued need for levies.
The need for operating levies every 3-5 years is a result of House Bill 920, a bill passed in 1976 that limits property taxes to fund public school districts. It was an unprecedented time of high inflation and the state government wanted to soften the blow for homeowners. As property taxes were dramatically increasing each year, HB 920 froze the dollar amount paid to school districts at the 1976 price point, not allowing for a natural adjustment to inflation. The dollar amount will always remain the same which is why even with this increase in state f
unding CH-UH will need levies not long after the full implementation. Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools will still be extremely reliant on property taxes for school funding even with this increase.
An increase in state funding is an overall win for public schools in Ohio according to both Resseger and Gainer. The adjustment of the funding formula has allowed for a solid and reliable source from the state. Although operating levies will still be needed, the plan significantly helps the public schools. The funding of Phase II is definitely a gain for the equity and adequacy portion of school funding. In order to ensure reliability in the future the legislature must fully fund Phase III of the plan in the next budget. Only when all three phases are entirely funded the formula will be adequate, equitable, and reliable.