School-funding ideas could force Strickland's hand

Ted Strickland has hung his success or failure as governor on fixing Ohio's school funding system. A quarter of the way through his term, he has yet to announce a timeline for his fix, let alone the specifics of a plan. Republican state Sen. Kirk Schuring jumped into the funding-fix fray last week with a joint resolution that would dedicate specific percentages of revenue from certain taxes to K-12 and higher education.

Schuring's proposal and Strickland's lack of one have received a lot of attention. Flying under the radar, however, is the State Board of Education's thoughtful and deliberate approach to developing recommendations for improving the state's school funding. While their colleagues in the General Assembly have been criticized for inaction over the past year (see here), the board is busy with real work toward mending Ohio's ailing school-funding system. Its school-funding subcommittee is considering novel approaches to relieving the state's reliance on property taxes to fund K-12 education. All ideas are on the table, from capping property taxes and opening the door for sales and income education taxes, to the regionalization of school funding.

Still unclear is whether the State Board of Education will make recommendations on modernizing how education dollars are spent. Funding inequities between schools within districts are as dramatic as, sometimes more so than, funding inequities between districts. As in the rest of the country, Ohio's current method of calculating per-pupil funding (the exception being special education) does little to consider the actual educational needs of individual students and the costs associated with meeting those needs.

For guidance on the equitable distribution of education revenue, the State Board of Education, Governor Strickland, and the General Assembly should look to the Fordham Institute's Fund the Child: Tackling Inequity & Antiquity in School Finance. This "manifesto" calls for weighted student funding that varies based on a student's individual learning needs and follows that student to the public school of his or her choice. Fund the Child also enjoys strong bipartisan support and reaches beyond traditional ideological boundaries (see the current list of signatories here)-something any Ohio school-funding plan will need in order to succeed.

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