Ohio public schools are funded through a mix of state, local and federal dollars. This school year, most school districts saw deep cuts in the state funding part of that equation: The 2011 biennial budget cut $1.8 billion in state funding for public schools, leaving schools to struggle to close gaps between the dollars planned to spend and what they had to spend.
But the same state budget bill that made those deep cuts included a new provision that could end up softening their impact slightly.
“It’s going to impact every district,” Ohio Department of Education budget director Kelly Weir says.
How much will that impact be worth? “It’s going to depend on the situation of that district,” she says.
This is the deal:
The amount of state funding the legislature sets aside for public schools each year is tied to statewide predictions of how many students will enroll. The money is divvied up among schools based in part on their enrollments. (Other factors including how property-rich a district is also come into play.)
In past years, if Ohio schools had fewer students than predicted, any state funding that remained would go back to the state’s general revenue fund.
Last year’s state budget bill, HB 153, changed that. Now, if Ohio has fewer students than predicted, any “extra” money gets distributed to school districts. Again, the distribution is based in part on enrollments, but other factors also come into play.
And it appears that this year’s statewide student counts will be less than the estimates, Weir says. So by July, school districts should see some additional money coming their way.
How much? The Department of Education doesn’t know just yet. But the midpoint windfall could be around $30 per pupil. Some districts could get more; others less, Weir says.
For a district with 5,000 students, that could mean another $150,000 on the right side of the ledger.
That means some school districts may be able to bring back a few teachers who might otherwise have been laid off, or restore parts of programs or services that would otherwise be cut, Ohio School Boards Association lobbyist Damon Asbury says. But we’re not likely to see districts bringing back large numbers of teachers or restoring entire programs.
Still, “it beats reductions, that’s for sure,” Asbury says.