Cleveland Heights-University Heights School Board Reviews State Funding, EdChoice Change

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio – With the passage this month of the Fair School Funding Plan in the state’s biennial budget, much-needed relief is on its way to the Cleveland Heights-University City School District – though questions remain as to how much and for how long.

Most important for CH-UH schools, the new K-12 funding formula eliminates the ‘district deduction’ model for EdChoice private tuition vouchers, which embezzled over $ 7 million from local public schools in 2019 -20, then as much to $ 9 million last year.

As part of the state’s proposed six-year rollout, CH-UH will receive an additional $ 2 million in the first year (2021-22 school year), followed by an additional $ 1.3 million in the second year (2022-23) compared to its current funding after the losses. deductions from supporting documents are recorded, a July 9 district declaration Noted.

This represents between $ 3.3 and 5.3 million and will be phased in by the end of the second year (2022-2023), when the governor and state legislature will review their following two-year budget.

“There are always ‘nuances’ in state budgeting, and we are happy that the ‘district deduction’ model is taken off the table for us,” said the superintendent of the CH-UH school. , Liz Kirby, to the Board of Education at its July 6 meeting.

Kirby commended parents, staff, students and community members for several years of advocacy – aside from potential litigation via the “Vouchers Hurt Ohio” coalition – on behalf of public schools, including testimony before committees of State in Columbus.

“Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we’ll get $ 7.5 million next year – it doesn’t quite work that way,” Kirby added. “But we are happy that the (old) structure has come out and we hope it will stay that way. And we know there are a lot more questions and information that we are going to receive and share. “

CH-UH Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Scott Gainer had a three-hour online meeting scheduled for July 8 with the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, telling the school board that “there is a lot of unpacking going on. do in the biennial budget ”.

Detailed amounts will be provided by the Ohio Department of Education in October, and future increases beyond the 2022-2023 school year, as anticipated in the 6-year phased in, will depend on future legislatures that will determine the next two biennial budgets.

“Essentially, the plan is only funded for two years, not six as originally planned,” CH-UH school board president Jim Posch noted in the district’s July 9 press release. “And instead of getting the full annual deduction from the bond back, we’ll make $ 2 million in the first year.”

New formula

Gainer told the board on July 6 that it’s important to note that the state’s current funding model – and not just the “district deduction -” is gone or will be in six years.

“This is a new formula, this is what we advocated, because at the end of the day it will be a reasonable approach to state funding,” Gainer said. “But if people don’t watch it in its entirety, it’s like trying to mix apples and oranges.”

The Fair School Funding Plan calculates state aid with a formula of 60% property taxes and 40% of household income, taking into account the economic status of a community and the number of students most. needy of a district.

“I am not happy to see that the amounts of the state EdChoice vouchers have increased (from $ 6,000 to $ 7,500 per year) and that they are now included in a budget line in the state budget for funding for public schools, ”Gainer told the board.

At the same time, this EdChoice voucher money will now be fully funded by the state, rather than being deducted directly from school districts.

“It’s a big win, but it’s short-lived because we still won’t have enough money,” Posch said on July 6. “I know there are community members who are rejoicing, saying that our financial problems have been completely resolved.

Some of these community members have already called on the school board to review the proceeds of the reduced 4.8 million levy that narrowly passed last November, after an earlier and larger proposal of $ 7.9 million lost by about 600 votes in spring 2020.

“The school board has previously said that if the vouchers are paid directly by the state and if the lost funds are returned to the district, we may be able to reconsider our current levy needs,” Posch said in the statement. July 9 press.

Posch and the board explained that with the new formula, “the deduction from the payment of local school district vouchers has been eliminated, as has the total amount of district state funding that was previously used to cover. the deduction of vouchers.

“Instead, the state has created a new funding system that will be phased in over six years (assuming future legislatures agree to do so over two additional biennial budgets), which does not provide funding. significant increases to our district over the next two years, ”the district statement added.

With this in mind, CH-UH is now accepting applications until August 6 for community stakeholders to join its Secular Finance Committee, to review state audit reports and “work as a liaison with the community, helping to identify financial and budgetary information to communicate to our residents”. Applications are available on the district website.

Regarding the new state funding formula, Dan Heintz, a member of the CH-UH school board, noted that there were “not many details on how it will be carried out.”

Heintz added that under the state’s new budgeting, up to 25% of public money will be used to educate private school students, who make up 10% of school-age children in Ohio.

Statewide, this equates to 90% of Ohio students enrolled in public schools who receive 75% of state taxpayer funds.

Heintz pointed out in April what hit the CH-UH school district so hard under the previous state formula was that the local percentages are considerably higher, with nearly 5,000 students attending public schools and 1 700 others enrolled in private schools on vouchers.

School board vice-chair Malia Lewis described the six-year phased roll-out as “logarithmic, where a significant amount of money doesn’t arrive until grades five and six.” And at this point, there is no guarantee that they will continue to introduce it gradually. “

The district’s July 9 statement maintained cautious optimism for the equitable school funding plan.

“While there are some wrinkles that need to be smoothed out, this is an encouraging development for public schools like ours,” Posch said. “This does not translate into a financial windfall for the neighborhoods and is not guaranteed. The short-term financial impact for CH-UH is minimal, but the long-term fiscal impact is promising.

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