"This isn't hard to figure out," Gov. John Kasich said last week as he unveiled his school funding plan, "If you are poor, you're going to get more. If you are rich, you are going to get less."
Sorry, Governor, maybe we're missing something in the translation, but it doesn't seem to be working that way.
Kasich's school funding plan includes an equalization provision that would enable districts with modest resources to take in as much from their first 20 mills of property tax as wealthier districts that have $250,000 of property value per student. The conventional wisdom was that this would result in a Robin Hood-style shifting of state support from wealthier districts to those less well off. That doesn't appear to be the case.
Spokespeople for the governor's office said Feb. 6 that the distribution of state funding is tied to changes in property valuation and enrollment, and the state has seen significant shifts in those areas in the past five years. The economic downturn of 2008 depressed suburban property values, while development in rural areas, where the oil and gas industry has been active, has boosted the value of farmland.
Even taking that into consideration, however, it is difficult to understand the rationale for the school funding figures.
We can take comfort in not being alone on this. State Sen. Tom Sawyer, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, observed, "I don't understand how a wealthy Columbus suburban school district can receive a 331 percent increase while many rural districts across Ohio get nothing. It doesn't make sense. The governor needs to explain why these numbers contradict the sales pitch he gave school leaders last week."
Some clarification would help, Governor.