What could the Ohio education budget look like for the next two years?
Discussions have been ongoing in the Ohio Statehouse regarding the overall state budget, and a subcommittee on education has heard takes from both private and public education advocates on the proposals.
But what’s in the proposed education budget for fiscal years 2024 and 2025?
The Legislative Service Commission laid out the topics and appropriations in consideration currently by the Ohio House.
The Ohio Department of Education, with its oversight of 1.6 million students has a proposed budget of $15.13 billion in 2024 and another $14 billion in 2025.
State primary and secondary education is the highest of the four largest spending areas in the budget, followed by health and human services, higher education and corrections.
Compared to FY 2023, education funding groups – which include the general revenue (GRF), lottery, federal, all students and other state non-GRF funds – would see an overall reduction of 5.6% in 2024, and a 10.4% reduction in 2025.
The newest budget would include the Fair School Funding Plan, which has been phased in for two years, and another two years would be implemented in the 2024-2025 budget, despite calls from public school supporters to fully fund the plan immediately.
“We’re not here necessarily asking for that (private school funding) to change,” said Timothy “Ryan” Jenkins, treasurer for the Olentangy Local School District. “All we’re saying is could we find a way to do that for all public school students as well as private school students?”
The implementation of traditional school district funding for the next two years uses a method dating back from 2018 to calculate a school district’s base cost to educate.
“In general, the formula determines a per-pupil local contribution based on a mix of property value and income measures, then requires the state to make up the difference to bring the total up to the district’s per-pupil base cost in order to direct more state funding to districts with lower wealth,” the LSC stated in their analysis.
This is as more groups call for recalculation of students costs through the use of research studies and district-by-district data, which was what the original authors of the Fair School Funding Plan included in their legislation.
Funding for studies, particularly for Disadvantaged Pupil Impact Aid (DPIA) have not been prioritized as the plan has gone forward. Because of that, economists with the Ohio Education Policy Institute conducted their own study, finding the barriers created by a student’s economic situation causing more need within those districts.
Another change would expand private school voucher eligibility from 250% of the federal poverty level to 400%. This change was part of Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget proposal, presented as part of his most recent State of the State address.
Supporters of the EdChoice voucher expansion, like Larry Keough, of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, say the increase will go to support private schools who house low-income and minority students, but an increase could also help families who may make more money, but still see high tuition rates at private schools. Keough said tuitions can be “upwards of $20,000.”
“What crosses the line between church and state is the student,” Keough told the House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education.
The governor’s education budget proposal also included increases specifically to minimum state shares for transportation.
With the suggestions made by the governor, the proposed budget would ultimately increase education “foundation aid,” or base state funding for traditional schools, by 2.1% in 2024 and 1.4% in 2025.
Community and STEM schools, who are funded separately from traditional public schools and do not have taxing authority, see a state share of “effectively 100%,” according to the LSC. Foundational aid for those schools is set to rise 1.9% in 2024 and 2.4% in 2025.
The governor’s proposal would bring eligibility for EdChoice voucher programs and other scholarship programs like the Cleveland Scholarship Program and the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program up to 400% of the federal poverty level, but also increase allocations to those programs in 2024 by 11% compared to 2023 levels, and increase them further the next year, up 9.3% in 2025.
As for early childhood education, the new budget is looking to create a state Department of Children and Youth, which would require the transfer of all early childhood program to that department, falling under the governor’s cabinet.
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.