Officials from several local schools participated in a discussion Tuesday night in which they asked their constituents to contact elected officials and urge them to push for passage of Ohio House Bill 305.
The discussion was hosted by the Ohio Democratic Party and focused on House Bill 305, a bipartisan bill authored by representatives Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) that would make a variety of changes to school funding in Ohio, including eliminating the funding caps that have kept millions of dollars from local schools over the past decade.
Julie Feasel, a member of the Olentangy Local Schools Board of Education and the Delaware Area Career Center Board of Education, was a participant in the discussion. She said the bill, which passed in the Ohio House of Representatives last week and is now being considered by the Ohio Senate, would have a huge impact on education in Ohio.
“This is a nonpartisan issues that impacts the 609 school districts in our state,” Feasel said. “Schools have been funded unfairly for years … This isn’t a new problem for us.”
Feasel said the current funding formula harms growing districts like Olentangy.
“We have been the fastest-growing school district in the state for years,” she said. “We’re adding an elementary school full of kids (about 750 kids) … We’ve never been funded for the growth. While we’re the sixth largest district in the state now, we’re the fourth lowest amount of state funding. Last school year we got about $650 per pupil. The average is around $4,800 per pupil.”
Fellow speaker and Delaware City Schools Board of Education member Jayna McDaniel-Browning agreed with what Feasel said, adding Delaware City Schools is in the same position.
“This is vitally important for everyone living in Delaware County,” McDaniel-Browning said. She explained that the current funding formula limits districts to no more than a 2% growth in funding regardless of the number of students they gained.
“We will never catch up,” she said. “(Delaware City Schools) is losing $7.2 million annually … We spent $8.5 million on services, supplies and materials in 2020. Can you imagine the resources and experiences we could provide our children with that kind of money.”
Feasel said the funding formula means that Olentangy is missing out on $44 million a year.
The third speaker at the event was Nicole Marshall, the CFO for Westerville City Schools. She said Westerville’s 2019 school levy “was a levy we wouldn’t have needed” if the funding formula was fair.
“If people knew just how much this effects their local taxes they would get involved,” Marshall said.
Feasel and McDaniel-Browning agreed with Marshall’s remarks, adding districts would not have had to rely on voters and levies for funding if the state funded schools fairly.
“Fairness is all I’m asking for,” Feasel said. “Rural or urban, this bill will have some impact on you … It’s not sustainable for my voters. If not now, when?”
Feasel urged her constituents to contact their elected officials, specifically in the Ohio Senate, and push them to pass the bill. Feasel said if passed, the new bill would be implemented over six years, and by the end of those six years, Olentangy would be getting an additional $44 million.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” McDaniel-Browning said. “It’s hard to tell our kids ‘I’m sorry that our government doesn’t value you the way they should.’ It’s long past time that this funding inequity is corrected … (The state senate passing the proposed funding plan) would give our district an equitable level of funding necessary to provide our students with the opportunities that they deserve and that they need to be successful in the future. It will also lessen that burden on our taxpayers that we have to keep coming back and asking them time and time again to support our schools so they can cover what the cap is not covering.”
The entire discussion was streamed to Facebook Live and can be viewed on the Delaware County Democrats’ Facebook page at facebook.com/ohiodeladems.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.