Columbus -- The state will provide increased funding for poorer school districts statewide, through a new formula that takes into account property values and income levels.
Additionally, there will be more state money provided for programs for the disabled, gifted students and those learning the English language.
Funding will be offered for pre-school for youngsters living in poverty. Certain students will have greater access to vouchers to attend private schools. And all districts will receive at least as much in state formula funding as they have in the current fiscal year.
Those were among the details unveiled by Gov. John Kasich and administration officials Jan. 31 as part of a much-anticipated reform package.
"We want to make sure that every boy and girl, no matter what district they come from, are going to be in a position to have the resources they need to be able to compete with boys and girls in any other district across the state," the governor told an audience of school superintendents and officials at a suburban Columbus hotel. "That is exactly how we designed this program."
Aurora Superintendent Russ Bennett, who attended the presentation, said he felt, at an initial glance, Kasich had made "a thoughtful attempt to address the funding issue.
"When he started his speech and stated no district would be given less money next year than this year, we felt a little better right off the bat," Bennett said. "We all thought we were in for another reduction like last year."
BENNETT SAID what all superintendents and treasurers are anxious to see are the details that outline "what his plan actually means in real dollars and cents to each district."
"Going through these budget debates before, we know the legislatures will put their footprint on the plan, as well," Bennett said.
"I was happy about seeing additional dollars being allotted for areas like special education, gifted and ESL [English as a second language] students," Bennett said. "Our special education costs have increased dramatically each year, and I hope his plan will help address this area. As stated above, there are some promising ideas he presented, but as always, the devil's in the details."
Kasich said, "If you're poor, you're going to get more. If you're richer, you're going to get less. ... If you have disabled and gifted students, you're going to get help."
The proposal will be part of Kasich's biennium budget bill.
Kasich said the plan is "fully funded," with about $7.4 billion and $7.7 billion in state general revenue and lottery monies each year of the biennium. That's up from $6.9 billion in the current fiscal year.
Specific district-by-district funding information will be released this week.
In general, under the new formula, the state will distribute funding to schools based on what a 20-mill levy would generate in a district with property valuations of $250,000 per student. In the lowest wealth districts, that valuation is about $50,000, while two dozen districts have valuations of more than $250,000.
THE STATE also will provide additional "targeted assistance" to schools based on the income levels of their residents, meaning poorer districts would receive more state assistance than wealthier ones.
"I know many of you were worried that there were going to be significant cuts," Kasich said. "There's mostly increases. No one's going to lose under this proposal."
Among other provisions, the governor's plan calls for increased financial support for disabled students, with assurances that the money is being used for students in classrooms and not to cover administrative or unrelated costs.
Administration officials told superintendents that the state would provide full per-student funding for schools that opt to offer full-day kindergarten and half-funding for those with half-day programs.
Aurora offers free half-day kindergarten, and charges tuition for full-day kindergarten.
Democrats said Kasich's plan does little to restore nearly $2 billion in cuts schools experienced in the last budget cycle.
"I am hopeful there will be room to work together on Gov. Kasich's plan, but this proposal does very little to address the devastating cuts in his last budget," House Minority Leader Armond Budish said.
Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog. Reporter Mike Lesko contributed to this story.