The Ohio School Funding Conundrum

On Sunday, November 30, the Columbus Dispatch ran an article by Cantherine Candisky and Jim Siegel titled “Rural kids get fewer AP classes”.

The article highlights the disparity in availability of advanced classes across districts, even those within the same county. For example, Dublin City Schools offers students a selection of 92 advanced courses, while Hamilton Local Schools, also in Franklin County, offers 9.

From the article:

“Where a student lives in Ohio is not supposed to determine the type of education he or she receives. That was the key underpinning for the DeRolph school-funding lawsuit that successfully argued that state leaders were not providing a thorough and efficient education as required by the state Constitution. The presumption also has been at the heart of ongoing debates over how the state distributes billions of dollars to more than 600 school districts.

But a first-of-its-kind analysis of high-school courses offered by Ohio districts finds that students living in poorer, more rural areas of the state have access to fewer overall classes, and far fewer high-level courses, than do students living in suburban and urban districts.

The analysis, completed at the urging of public-school groups including the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, found that districts classified by the state as rural average fewer than 6.5 high-level courses: upper-level math, Advanced Placement, general advanced courses and nontraditional foreign languages such as German and Chinese.

Meanwhile, suburban districts average 26 high-level courses, based on data filed with the Ohio Department of Education.”

Why does it matter? The school funding formula used to distribute state support is still not settled to the court’s satisfaction. Governor Strickland and Governor Kasich each introduced a different funding formula, but school funding still relies heavily on local taxpayers. In rural districts, they carry even more of the weight.

“The state calculates the effort that local taxpayers are making to support their schools. Of the 217 districts that report offering fewer than 150 courses, state data say 53 percent are making a greater-than-average effort to fund their districts.

Meanwhile, of the 25 suburban districts that offer the most courses, 20 have lower-than-average local-taxpayer efforts to fund their schools, including Dublin, Hilliard, Olentangy, Westerville, Worthington and Upper Arlington.”

School boards in rural districts face daunting challenges to maintain operations. We salute the Athens City School Board and the Athens City Schools administration for their prudent management of district resources. We also salute Principal Hanning and his staff at Athens High School for their efforts to provide access to advanced courses.

What can we do as citizens? School funding formulas are proposed and adopted by elected officials. Be informed and ask questions about these topics when you research candidates. Talk to your state senators and representatives about the issue. And more important than anything else, when election time rolls around, VOTE!