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Proposal would offer fair education funding for all

While there are still details to work out and legislative approval to be had, it seems for the first time in decades that there may be hope in Ohio of ending the unconstitutional school funding system.

We’ve seen educators and residents alike frustrated by the formula, through different governors representing different parties. While it was always a talking point, there seemed to be little real action-or if a plan was started, it was scrapped by the next administration.

Now, the Cupp-Patterson proposal, which they title “Fair School Funding Plan,” seems to have support.

A task force was established in late 2017 by Ohio Rep. Robert Cupp, R-Lima, and Ohio Rep. John Patterson, D-Ashtabula, in an effort to address longstanding grievances about the Ohio school funding formula, which was deemed unconstitutional 22 years ago and determined to rely too heavily on property taxes, favoring wealthier districts. On Friday, they unveiled a proposal for a new formula, looking at actual costs to educate a student in a typical Ohio town. The plan determines a local share of funding based on 60 percent of a district’s property values with 40 percent based on residents’ income, a marked change from the current formula. It also takes away funding caps and guarantees and provides funding beyond the base on a district-by-district basis, such as for students living in poverty.

It may mean some Washington County school systems see flat funding and no increase, according to early estimates. But local superintendents have said they’re willing to accept that as a trade-off for a more equitable funding system for all districts.

If approved, the plan would mean an additional $720 million in the state’s investment in public education. That’s a scary number, but it’s important to remember that the quality of our future workforce and economy depends on education today.

The funding formula was declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1997 and then again three more times, the last in 2002. It’s about time it’s changed, and this task force says its proposal is much fairer, predictable and transparent. The plan is available at http://sites.google.com/view/ohiofairschoolfunding.

It’s a lot to digest and not every question has been answered just yet. But we know this: students in rural southeast Ohio deserve to have the same quality of education as those in a wealthy district in another part of the state. Our districts shouldn’t have to constantly go to voters and ask for another levy, just to cover the basics–the basics that don’t compare to what other districts can offer. We need a fairer system for all. We hope this gets us closer.

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