It is not often that Ryan Pendleton’s law update is greeted with applause and cheers during board meetings at Akron Public Schools.
But on Monday night, the school district finance chief announced to the board that the revised school funding formula he’d worked on with state lawmakers for the past three years had been approved by the conference committee just an hour earlier or so and would be attending the State biennial budget.
A massive overhaul of the way Ohio finances its schools was far from official.
CEO NJ Akbar called it “monumental” and a “game changer”.
School funding in Ohio has long been considered unconstitutional, from everything related to total spending on education to the way one school district receives money through another. Akron schools, led by Pendleton, have long struggled to change that.
Akron will make about $ 8 million from the new formula over the next two years.
But the real win isn’t about that extra $ 8 million, Pendleton said.
The state will now have a mechanism for financing schools – understandable for parents and taxpayers – that makes sense, takes the needs of the individual districts into account and can be foreseen in real time.
“We know it’s child based,” Pendleton said.
It will also reduce the burden on local taxpayers and increase the time between submission requests from school districts. he said.
The formula is based on three parts: basic cost, state and local share, and categories of high-need students.
The base cost is the cost of a student’s education in that district, with districts with a higher number of younger students being weighted more heavily because a lower teacher-student ratio in these grades makes them more expensive.
The formula then takes into account the true wealth of that community and its ability to contribute based on income and wealth. A wealthier district would bear a higher share of the cost.
The last factor is how many students have an increased need because, for example, they are economically disadvantaged or because they are learning English. Districts with larger populations of these students will receive more aid.
The Ohio House of Representatives Fair School Funding Plan called for a six-year phase with an additional $ 2 billion in education.
As the budget is currently foreseen for two years, the legislature has chosen to guarantee only the first two years of the six-year plan. For the time being, that means an additional $ 700 million for education.
But Pendleton said this was acceptable and expected, and he saw no regression by the state in the face of bipartisan support for the new formula.
“There is no evidence that this will go down or leak after two years,” he said.
From the sixth year of the plan, Akron would receive an additional $ 33 million annually.
The district currently receives about $ 165 million in government funding, or about $ 3,800 per student.
In the next two years, Pendleton said, no district will lose government funds. However, if the formula were fully implemented, about 95 of the state’s 609 counties would lose money. These can be districts that have lost their enrollment but have not previously lost funding because of guarantees built into the old formula.
“Over time, this formula needs to be allowed to work,” Pendleton said.
Ohio school districts are also receiving government stimulus funding that is likely to boost some budgets for the next several years.
Akron is receiving a total of around $ 140 million in stimulus funds, though the money will have to be spent over the next three years.
The need for levies will not go away, Pendleton said, but between the stimulus funds and the newly passed state funding formula, “we will increase our tax needs for a while”.
Contact education reporter Jennifer Pignolet at email@example.com, 330-996-3216, or on Twitter @JenPignolet.