19 Nov Airo AV Assert: Funding for Technology and Transportation Top the List
OHIO — The Ohio House Finance Committee is pushing through hearings to see what can be accomplished on the Fair School Funding Plan before the year is out.
With aid frozen and cuts made to deal with the impact of the pandemic, legislators and educators are working hard to help get the Fair School Funding bill passed by Dec. 31. Leaders from working groups had plenty to share in a House Finance Committee session. Topping the list — open enrollment for school choice programs, transportation and technology getting a good bit of attention.
On the school choice front, education leaders say they want to eliminate friction between community schools and traditional public schools when it comes to funding. Right now, Substitute HB 305 proposes that districts losing students would have to give up the money assigned to educate students who leave, while those gaining students would receive those dollars. Districts have long argued that school choice vouchers take a toll on their budgets because they pay out more money for students to attend a charter or private school than they receive from the state.
Either way, some representatives see the new proposal as a challenge.
Jay Edwards (R) of Nelsonville said, “In the Cupp Patterson plan, the fix in open enrollment is more in favor of wealthier districts than it is poor districts. Would you agree with that?” Steve McAfee who is a part of a working group for the bill replied, “I would agree with that. But then I think there are other components of the formula. I believe you heard from Claudia Zaylor last week talking about the economic disadvantaged piece that might mean more to understand like Trimble or like Whitehall.”
Also on the list of concerns is how to help students to excel and become competitive in the world of technology while closing the tech equity gap when funding has never been allocated for technology. Michael Trefs serves on the technology sub committee for the Fair School Funding Plan. He said, “For $68 and 50 cents per student, per year, we believe we can close that tech equity gap in the state of Ohio.”
As districts have struggled to fill in the tech gaps exposed during the pandemic, that money, if received, would help cover individual devices for every student, and maintenance and replacement devices every four years.
“In light of what we’ve seen in COVID-19 for technology in our schools for our future workforce and to close the tech equity gap, we don’t think that that need has ever been greater than it is right now.”
And lastly, with levies failing on ballots this year and in previous years, many districts have struggled with just getting kids to school. Supt. Dalton Summers of Riverview Local Schools serves on the transportation working group.
“In a previous district I served, we had to reduce to teaching positions to purchase the first bus we had purchased in ten years. And this is a district worth about 20 routes, averaging 15 to 20,000 miles a year.”
Working group co-chair Kevin Lillie said transportation funding for districts took a nose dive in 2016 to now, going from 50 percent in 2016 to 25 percent in 2019.
“Without sufficient local funding to meet these new transferred costs, districts have been forced to cancel services that communities depend upon or reallocate funding that was previously dedicated to educational services,” he said.
The goal now is to restore transportation back to 50 percent and make it a separate line item so it’s not impacted by cuts. If legislators can pass the Fair School Funding bill before the end of the year, it will provide the solution to a decades old problem that no one has yet to solve.