They included, he said, one in January 1991 by a joint committee led by then-Sen. Bob Cupp, which stated that the formula's per-pupil funding "should have some reasonable relationship to the cost of a quality, basic program ..."
Phillis testified Tuesday on the latest attempt to craft a proper school-funding plan, and that same Bob Cupp, now a representative from Lima, sat and listened. Cupp, along with Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, spent more than a year with superintendents and treasurers developing the new plan, and the two are now chairing a subcommittee gathering feedback.
"It may not be perfect, but it is most certainly a head-of-the-class effort in both process and product," Phillis said of the plan, calling it "sound in methodology and adequate in the factors used to determine the cost."
"It has the potential of changing the course of public education in Ohio," he said.
That's high praise from a man who has rarely given it while pushing lawmakers to find a formula that properly distributes revenue and, more important, is fully funded.
Several top public education associations and a leading school-funding expert stepped up Tuesday to testify on the new Cupp-Patterson plan, which seeks to fix the current system, where more than 80 percent of districts are not getting what the formula prescribes.
Jennifer Hogue of the Ohio School Boards Association said she found many things to like about the plan, such as calculating what it costs to educate a typical student, direct funding of charter schools, eliminating the current funding cap, and better efforts to pay for transportation and career tech.
But, Hogue said, "We have very real concerns about how this proposal will impact students in poverty, particularly those attending urban districts across the state."
Hogue noted that of the 71 districts getting no new money next year, 19 are among the poorest in the state, and nearly 70 percent of the students in those districts are minorities.
"It is no secret that Ohio has an education disparity gap. This gap is disturbing," she said. "Much more must be done in this funding proposal to move toward closing the education disparity gap that exists for these groups of students."
Howard Fleeter, lead analyst with the Ohio Education Policy Institute, likes what the proposal is trying to do, but said, "Some of the districts on the guarantee (getting no new money) are very concerning to me." That includes the eight major urban districts, four of which would receive no additional funding next year, and four more that would get far less per pupil than the state average.
Fleeter noted that the formula would significantly increase the base funding and money directed for low-income students, and would directly fund charter schools, no longer deducting their totals from the bottom lines of traditional schools, which also siphons away local tax dollars.
"You've got three things in this formula that ought to give urban districts more money, and yet when you look at the printout (of per-district funding), not one is even getting an average state increase the first year," he said.
Fleeter pointed to two likely reasons. Urban districts appear to be impacted severely by the way students are counted under the new formula -- excluding charter and private voucher students. When calculating local property and income wealth per pupil, removing thousands of students from the equation makes a district look significantly wealthier.
"The district is not any different today than it was three weeks ago, but it looks very different on paper," he said.
Plus, Fleeter said, the current formula, despite all its flaws, may be working for some districts. But the new calculation for determining how much local money should pay for the cost of an education essentially requires the equivalent of 22.5 mills for every district. Fleeter wondered if a sliding scale, something like 17 to 23 mills based on poverty, might work better.
Fleeter said there may be legitimate reasons why New Albany would get an additional $855 per pupil over two years, well above the state average, but "It doesn't matter what the reasons are when you look at what that district can offer their kids, and look at these districts that have these kids in poverty. There's just no comparison."
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