By Joseph Pratt
Ohio Governor John Kasich implemented the final touches on the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) public education budget allocation of $71 billion for the 2016-17 fiscal years through his budget bill signed into law last week. The 2016-17 budget bill puts a greater emphasis on areas such as elementary school education, higher education, and preschool classrooms.
“With the budget that takes effect today, Governor Kasich and Ohio Lawmakers have committed record levels of investment for K-12 education and I think that tells me, and us, that the state leaders believe our girls and boys are a great investment of our state resources,” Ohio Superintendent Richard Ross said in a conference call last week.
According to the ODE, the new budget provides more than $10 billion annually for primary and secondary education, the strongest level ever recorded. The budget increases per-pupil funding in the school funding formula from $5,800 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 to $5,900 in FY16 and $6,000 in FY17. The budget provides an additional $40 million over the biennium to provide high-quality preschool services for disadvantaged children.
Scioto County has witnessed the importance of growth in preschool services recently, making an attempt to grow on what was previously offered, through the help of the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center (SCOESC). Kasich hopes to have more than 17,000 four-year-olds enrolled in a preschool by the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Ohio has had many benefits with College Credit Plus, which provides high schools the resources for their teachers to instruct courses for college credit, putting their students ahead of the game and saving families money. The budget will add an additional $10 million to this program, designated to go towards economically disadvantaged areas. Scioto County schools are involved in this program and only grow to being more involved.
Students enrolled in under performing schools have received Ed Choice Scholarships to allow them to attend schools not in the public school sector. Local options include Notre Dame and Portsmouth STEM Academy. The budget for this program has also been extended.
Students with documented disabilities in all grades will also receive a benefit from the budget, with $5 million being provided for schools to assist these students in receiving a quality education and to successfully transition them from school to work.
Kasich also wanted to assist students in higher education through the budget by limiting tuition hikes through freezes, improving College Credit Plus, pushing universities to use their campuses over the summer by filling gaps in student grants for year-round education, and more.
He also set aside $2 million to go towards programs for better campus safety by preventing and responding to sexual assaults.
“Gov. Kasich believes that the high cost of college is one of the greatest challenges facing higher education,” Kasich’s office claimed in a released statement. “While a number of Ohio colleges and universities have taken innovative steps to control costs, more work is needed to help universities avoid prohibitively large hikes in tuition and fees.”
Previously, Ohio offered $130 million annually in higher education scholarships, but Kasich added an additional $13 million to funds for Ohio College Opportunity Grant, War Orphans, and the Ohio National Guard.
For students who never graduated, the budget provides $1.25 million, for as many as five additional pilot sites at Ohio community colleges and technical centers, to work with individuals over the age of 22 to earn credits toward a high school diploma, while pursuing job training coupled with credential efforts.
Additionally, to all mentioned programs, there are many other smaller programs that money was allocated for, ranging on the need.
Portsmouth West High School Superintendent Jeff Stricklett said all Scioto County Schools will be affected differently by the budget, but West will be benefiting from it.
“It is very favorable for West Schools at this time and we are just looking to get more information,” Stricklett said.
Of the 44 vetoes that Kasich made, few had to do with Ohio’s education budget bill.
One of the vetoes was for the Associate Degree Pathway Under College Credit Plus, because it would prohibit two public universities and many private colleges from participating in the college credit plus program and limit cost-saving opportunities for students and their families.
Another veto was for Requirements to Ohio’s Task Force on Affordability and Efficiency in Higher Education, because he claimed it was unnecessary and would delay implementation of recommendations and the related cost savings benefits to students and their families.
A veto was given to Exempting Nonpublic Schools from Providing College Credit Plus, because it would allow nonpublic secondary schools to opt out of the program and he wants all Ohio students eligible for the program.
A veto was given to Joint Vocational School District Funding—Career Technical Education, because Kasich was worried it would impact the quality of education provided.
A veto was given to Wealthy School District Funding Guarantee, which was an issue for many schools across Ohio. According to Kasich, Ohio currently funds districts depending on property value, income, and the capacity of the community to meet their need.
“Funding guarantees undermine the formula by limiting its ability to direct funds to districts that need them most,” Kasich said. “By carving out a special payment to some of the richest districts in the state— at at time when other districts are seeing funding withheld due to legally-imposed ‘caps’ on their funding growth— a guaranteed minimum per-pupil payment is not the best use of state resources.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.