“We are not unmindful of the difficulties facing the state, but those difficulties do not trump the Constitution.” DeRolph v. State 97 Ohio St. 3d, December 11, 2002
House Bill (HB) 628, introduced December 13, 2016 by State Rep. Andrew Brenner, would take school funding in a radical different direction. It is not the solution to the court decisions in the DeRolph school funding case. Before legislators, school district officials and the general public become engrossed in the pieces and parts of this 779-page bill, they should:
- Contemplate the significance, implications and the binding requirements of Article VI, §2 of the Ohio Constitution (The General Assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state; but no religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this state.)
- Recognize that the school funding system must provide sufficient resources to allow boards of education to deliver high quality educational opportunities to all students in the respective school districts pursuant to the thorough and efficient clause of the Ohio Constitution.
- Understand that the funding system must be predicated on the components of high quality educational opportunities (programs, services, curricular offerings, co-curricular offerings and the state and local expectations regarding student outcomes) for students Pre-K through grade 12.
- Recognize that the essential resources, thus the level of funding required, will vary according to the type of student, i.e. regular, special education, career/technical, gifted, disadvantaged, etc.
- Be aware that capital costs, including school buses and school facilities, must be accommodated by the school funding system.
- Understand that emphasis on property tax in the funding system must not trump the requirement of adequate funding, equitable distributed.
School officials have a tendency to get into the weeds of spreadsheets and judge a funding plan by whether it increases or decreases the funding for their respective district. A new funding system must ensure high quality educational opportunities for all students. There will be no losers if the state creates a funding system that complies with the Constitution.
HB 628 has several deal-breaking, fatal flaws that school officials, in particular, should note. Reprehensibly, the bill provides for a universal voucher system. This is the same tripe the late economist Milton Friedman promoted as early as 1950.
It removes the capacity of school district officials to have any control over the level of funding. It would reduce boards of education and school administrators to mere regional puppets of the state.
It does not increase the level of overall funding and eliminates state participation in school facilities construction.
It appears that this bill was drafted with the primary purpose of implementing the “all funds to follow the child” or the voucher system. This concept is antithetical to the constitutional provision of a thorough and efficient system of common schools. It would sever the social compact between the public school and the community. In a nutshell, whether intended or not, it would mortally wound the traditional public system.
The formulation of a new school funding system requires the assistance of school finance experts working in collaboration with school district personnel. One or more methodologies, such as professional judgment, successful schools, evidence-based or econometric model should be used to determine the required funding level.
HB 628 is a Trojan horse. Public school personnel and advocates should treat it as such.
William L. Phillis, Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding
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