Ohio’s schools need new formula, new revenue

Our current school funding formula fails students, parents and taxpayers. It is not based on, and therefore fails to provide, the programs and services students need to succeed. It has been declared unconstitutional multiple times because the reliance on property taxes unfairly benefits districts with higher property values while leaving much of the state behind. Additionally, more than 80 percent of Ohio’s school districts are currently receiving either the capped or guaranteed levels of funding, making the details of the current formula moot.

That’s why Ohio teachers, parents and students should be excited about the proposed school funding formula that state Reps. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and John Patterson, D-Jefferson, released last week.

While some work will need to be done to ensure all school districts move forward together, the new proposal offers unprecedented potential to fix Ohio’s school funding.

The bipartisan Cupp-Patterson formula starts by holistically asking, “What do our students need to achieve success in our schools and beyond?” That means funding the “whole student” and providing instruction, co-curricular activities, social and emotional needs, safety and security, career readiness, counselors, technology and teacher professional development. The formula also would make more funding available to students living in poverty to address their needs, would recommend access to high quality preschool for economically disadvantaged students and would increase funding for special education.

These changes are essential because our students’ needs are growing every day. Compared with 10 years ago, significantly more of our students are coping with challenges like poverty, homelessness and foster care, and all of our students need to be prepared for a world and economy that are rapidly changing.

In 2018, funding for Ohio’s school districts was $610 million less than it was in 2010. The new formula would add $720 million in annual funding by the 2021 fiscal year, essentially getting us back to where we were a decade earlier when inflation is considered. It is the bare minimum we need to keep Ohio students from falling further behind their peers in other states. Additional investments in education that are outside the scope of the formula will be needed as well.

Cupp and Patterson have put us on the path to fixing our broken funding formula, but to pay for it we’ll need to solve another problem: raising the revenue needed to fund our future. We can’t afford a budget that fails to add new sources of revenue and instead relies on optimistic economic projections to increase revenue.

There are common–sense changes we can make to Ohio’s tax code that would raise revenue without increasing the burden on low-income Ohioans who are already paying almost twice as much, as a share of their income, as the affluent do. One of these changes, eliminating the LLC loophole — which exempts owners of “pass-through entities” from income taxes on their first $250,000 in income and reduces their tax rate on additional income — would raise more than $1 billion each year.

Read full Columbus Dispatch column from Melissa Cropper here