Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
Cupp: State aid plan would help schools with low valuations
By William Kincaid
State Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, talks about the state budget, scho. . .
ST. MARYS - The Ohio House's proposal to fund K-12 education would help school districts with low property values, State Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said Monday morning.
But whether that formula is in the final state budget is up to the Ohio Senate.
Speaking at Midwest Electric's political action meeting, Cupp and other legislators spoke about school funding levels in the state budget that recently advanced to the Senate.
Amounts are yet to be finalized, but the House's formula, which added about $270 million to Gov. John Kasich's proposal, aims to close the gap between districts with high industrial and commercial property values and those without, Cupp said.
"The essence is to push the state's tax dollars - those that come from income tax and sales and other state taxes - to those districts that don't have the property valuation in which they can raise sufficient funds to operate their schools," he said.
Fort Recovery Local Schools Treasurer Lori Koch last week told board of education members the district would lose as much as $97,000 a year in 2016 and 2017 under the governor's proposal but would gain $379,000 in 2016 and $407,000 in 2017 under the House proposal.
"Probably what will happen is, once it works its way through the Senate, it will be somewhere between the governor's proposal and the House's proposal, is where it will end up," she had told board members. "So you can see, tad bit of a difference. In the end, it's about a half a million dollar difference in funding - so, that's huge."
The state has had four different funding formulas in the last 10 years, Cupp said.
"The school administrators tell me that the most important thing to them is some stability and predictability of school funding so they can plan and run their schools," he said. "And we've tried to do that. I think that we have a historic opportunity if it takes root and grows."
Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said his colleagues will review both the governor's and House's proposed spending bills before approving their own.
He also discussed efforts to deregulate K-12 education through Senate Bill 3, which now rests with the House.
"We have recognized that over the last 30 years what we have done on K-12 education has been in response to threats that we weren't spending enough money and the funding formula wasn't good and all those kinds of things," he said.
The legislature, Faber said, has historically responded to requests for more money by demanding more control.
"Ultimately it has resulted in a problem that all of us as free-market conservatives at this table know it isn't right," Faber said. "But we've done it because, well, that's what happens when you exchange money for control."
A top-down, centralized government doesn't work and deregulation would fix that, Faber said.
"Because we believe, just simply put, that your local school boards, your local teachers and your local principals are going to do a (better job) educating your kids than some bureaucrat in Columbus," he said. "Under the Set Our Schools Free Plan, if you've got a high-performing school district, they don't need to operate under the same structure of regulation that, frankly, some other school districts around Ohio that aren't doing so well need to."
Local schools, Faber said, will be better off if they're set free to educate students under their own standards, expectations and community requirements.
Faber also talked about attempts to rein in college costs that over 30 years have increased 1,100 percent - two to three times the rate of normal inflation.
"It has become unacceptable the rate of increase that higher education has gone through," Faber said.
The Senate more than a year ago challenged state colleges to reduce total student costs by 5 percent.
Community colleges and universities have responded positively, he said.
For example, Rhodes States College was able to lower the costs of books for a two-semester remedial math class from around $800 to about $100, he said.
"By changing the textbooks and going more online and doing some other things, they have reduced that cost to just over $100 - that's an 80 percent reduction. That's moving in the right direction."
Wright State University, Faber said, also is meeting the Senate challenge by reducing the required credit hours to 120 for most bachelor degree programs
"Wright State realized that the same thing that all of our other colleges and universities should realize, that a bachelor's degree is supposed to be 120 credits," Faber said. "But a number of programs have had credit creep and they're 130, 140 credits to get a bachelor's degree, and you wonder why it takes four or five years to graduate."
In addition to reducing mandatory hours, Wright State is also considering giving students a 5 percent tuition credit the next semester if they complete 15 credit hours, putting them on track to graduate in four years, Faber said.