In advance of the Governor releasing his budget, Policy Matters Ohio has produced a report looking at the current budget situation and making recommendations in numerous policy areas, including education.
- Restore cuts that have caused local school districts to cut staff and course offerings, increase class sizes, and implement pay-to-play for extracurricular activities;
- Institute a fair, adequate and equitable funding formula for schools;
- Apply high standards to charter schools, keeping ineffective schools from opening and closing those that fail their students. Make sure charters become part of a stronger K-12 education system in Ohio, not a means to dismantle it;
- Fund higher education sufficiently to make tuition at Ohio’s colleges and universities more similar to that in other states;
- Establish a long-term strategy to restore need-based aid.
Their entire education section of the report is worth a read, but we wanted to pull out 2 sections from that.
Figure 3 shows that, adjusted for inflation, annual state funding for primary and secondary education in Ohio has dropped more than a billion dollars over a 10-year period, to less than $8.7 billion in FY13 from $9.7 billion in FY04, in 2012 dollars. As noted, Figure 3 does not include federal stimulus funding.
Those are serious declines in education investment that should be kept in mind.
Even as K-12 education – districts, charters, and voucher programs – has gotten less funding through the state budget, the state continued to expand privatization, directing increasing amounts of money away from school districts toward privately operated charters and voucher schools. Some increasing funding is due to rising enrollment in charters, but as Table 5 shows, year-to-year increases in the deduction of funds from school districts have either outstripped or stayed roughly on track with enrollment increases. Over the 10-year period beginning in FY 2003, charter school enrollment has increased 262 percent, while funding for charters has increased more than 500 percent over the same period.
Policy makers have increased voucher spending as well. HB 153, the budget bill signed in 2011, created a new voucher worth up to $20,000 that families of special needs children can use at state-approved private providers beginning this school year. The budget bill also increased the voucher amount for the Cleveland program, to a maximum of $5,000 for high school and $4,250 for grades K-8, from $3,450 for all grades. HB 153 expanded the number of vouchers available through the statewide EdChoice program to 60,000, although FY 2013 enrollment remains much lower at about 15,968. Ohio’s autism voucher program, which provides up to $20,000 a year to use with private providers, began in FY 2004 and has been used by more than 2,000 families.
Together, the amount of money directed to charter schools and voucher programs in Ohio is approaching $1 billion a year deducted from school district funds. In FY 2011, for example, charter schools saw about $720 million and voucher programs got a total of more than $100 million. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) reports that in FY 2012, $774 million was allocated to charter schools and at least $86 million for vouchers. This reflects a growth of about 5 percent in privatized school funding in a year that overall funding plunged. ODE figures show at least $950 million will be spent on charters and vouchers in Ohio in FY 2013.
The Governor is also expected to expand privatization efforts further.