Thursday meeting on state school funding

A group of education advocates will hold a town hall meeting Thursday night to develop a program aimed at influencing the Ohio Legislature’s approach to funding local schools.

Teresa Porter of Education Works, the group sponsoring the town hall, said the organization has met several times recently and developed ideas it hopes might have some influence on the way state lawmakers approach education funding.

Porter said Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, a staff member from District 30 Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, and a Democratic candidate for District 94, Taylor Sappington, will be at the meeting.

Education Works has a list of questions it would like the panelists to discuss, and questions also will be taken from the audience, Porter said.

Among school districts in Washington County, only two are below the state average — 38.24 percent –in terms of the proportion of revenue they receive from local taxpayers: Warren and Frontier. Local taxpayers in Marietta provide more than 43 percent of the district’s revenue, in Belpre the proportion is nearly 50 percent, and in Fort Frye and Wolf Creek, local taxpayers provide more than half the operating revenue. The equivalent grant from the state per pupil varies widely, from $2,942 in Wolf Creek to $8,140 in Frontier.

The method by which money is distributed among school districts statewide was found unconstitutional more than two decades ago, Porter said.

The case DeRolph vs Ohio School Funding was filed in Perry County court in late 1991 and continued through various opinions, motions and appeals through the Ohio Supreme Court for nearly 12 years. The original complaint argued that the state funding system for public schools was unconstitutional, and the Ohio Supreme Court found in 1997 in favor of the plaintiffs, noting in part of a 51-page ruling that the state constitution “requires a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state” and “glaring discrepancies in school buildings, facilities, access to technology and curriculum” under which “some students in the state are being deprived of educational opportunity.”

Despite that, appeals and motions for reconsideration by the state continued. A conference intended to set a schedule to bring the state into compliance was opposed by the state in 2003, the state’s request was granted, and the matter came to an apparent conclusion when the plaintiff’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.

Porter said additional concerns have evolved, including the use of proceeds from state lotteries.

“The Ohio Lottery was supposed to help schools, but the legislature just used it to replace money that was already there,” she said.

The meeting will also address the cost of transporting students, she said. The group hopes lawmakers might consider a plan to increase the state assistance in buying school buses.

“It used to be the state would pay 50 percent, now it’s down to 25 percent,” she said.

Some states, she said, absorb the entire cost of purchasing buses.

“We hope we can give Rep. Edwards some ideas to take back to Columbus,” she said. “We’re trying to do our homework, and it’s hard because it’s complex. We’re trying to give our representatives the backing they need.”

Aaron Dauterman, senior legislative aide to Sen. Frank Hoagland, said Monday he will be at the meeting to represent Hoagland, who is unable to attend because of a scheduling conflict.

“School funding is an issue we have discussed at length,” Dauterman said, noting that Hoagland does not sit on the Senate Education Committee but maintains an interest in it. “He’s concerned about the funding formula.”

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in the Marietta High School cafeteria.

If you go

¯ What: Education Works town hall meeting.

¯ When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

¯ Where: Marietta High School cafeteria.

¯ Topics of discussion: The state school funding system, alternatives for purchasing school buses, the cost of the College Credit Plus system, what the legislature can do to improve funding systems for local school districts.

¯ Speakers, panelists: State 94th District Rep. Jay Edwards, Aaron Dauterman of state 30th District Sen. Frank Hoagland’s office, Taylor Sappington, Democratic candidate for the 94th District.

At a glance

Per student equivalent support, operating revenue, from the state, Washington County school districts, fiscal year 2017:

¯ Belpre City: $5,382.

¯ Fort Frye Local: $4,167.

¯ Frontier Local: $8,140.

¯ Marietta City: $3,585.

¯ Warren Local: $6,096.

¯ Wolf Creek Local: $2,942.

¯ State average: $4,966.

Percentage of operating revenue taxed from local sources:

¯ Belpre City: 49.85.

¯ Fort Frye Local: 51.16.

¯ Frontier Local: 17.81.

¯ Marietta City: 43.41.

¯ Warren Local: 27.96.

¯ Wolf Creek Local: 56.35.

¯ State average: 38.24.

¯ State average in fiscal year 2007: 49.13.

Source: Ohio Department of Education data reports