Ohio budget impacts school district funding

The latest state budget is making major changes to how school districts are being funded. Educators from around Southwest Ohio came together Thursday at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center to learn how the changes will affect their classrooms.

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - On one hand, the new state budget has opened up a new $250 million pot of grant money available to schools who go after innovation and efficiencies.

The budget also gives parents more options on where they can send their kids to school by expanding the voucher program.

On the other hand, many public school educators are voicing concerns about long term priorities within the state budgeting process.

"You may not think it matters to you now, but until the funding formula is truly addressed, at some point it will impact you," said UC professor Dr. Carlee Escue.

The tables turned and educators became students Thursday grabbing their pens and paper to learn about how yet another new funding formula impacts Ohio schools.

"We're still kind of waiting to see how it will all flush out and to see how close the estimates were with what we'll actually get," said Lakota Local Schools Treasurer Jenni Logan.

While the Lakota Local School District is slated to get more money under the new budget, the district is still down from what they received in the past with increasing worries about the future.

"One of the concerns that we have, especially as a public school system, is the additional funds that seem to be going toward charter, privatized education," Logan said.

"The hard discussion is how do you equitably distribute funding and that's not occurring at the moment,' Dr. Escue said. "Instead the focus is on choice and vouchers but that doesn't necessarily address the problem."

UC education professor Dr. Carlee Escue sat on the panel next to legislators from opposite sides of the aisle to break down the bigger budget picture.

"People don't realize that there's a lot of policy in budgets," State Senator Peggy Lehner (R) explained. "It's not just about dollars and cents."

"Some of the resources are being driven from the public school setting into a different setting, perhaps a charter school," State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D) said. "I think there are ramifications to that; I think there are long term ramifications."

One of the concerns raised was a need for more oversight of schools accepting vouchers.

"I think it's entirely fair for people to say if my tax dollars are going to this particular kind of school. I want to make sure that the school is performing well, so I think we need to require that all these schools be held accountable," Sen. Lehner added.

"Taking tax payer money and just throwing it into an entity that doesn't have to account back to us is problematic," echoed Dr. Escue.

In our commitment to balanced news, FOX19 reached out to the communications director at School Choice Ohio who provided the following statement:

"School Choice Ohio is thrilled that so many more families across the state now have the opportunity to send their child to the school of their choice thanks to the state's newest school voucher program that was created in the state budget."

The new voucher program does not divert money from public schools as it is a separate line item in the budget.

Private schools that choose to accept school voucher recipients must be approved by the state through a rigorous chartering process. In addition, any student who attends a private school with the assistance of a voucher must take all required state tests and assessments.

Ohio's budget bill becomes effective at the end of September. Currently, the Ohio Department of Education is crunching the numbers on the new funding formula.

The totals should be rolled out to districts in November.

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