Truth in our school funding numbers
School funding in Ohio is terribly confusing. Although the allocations, forecasts and balances are published in many forms, not only by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), but also by local public school districts, this information is often overwhelming and unclear.
One of the areas that can easily be misleading is how we talk about per-pupil spending in our CH-UH district. The simplest way might be to divide district’s annual expenses by the number of students in the school district. The glaring flaw in this method concerns the district’s expenses related to voucher, transfer and charter school students, but these students are not counted in this calculation.
There are also several district employees dedicated solely to serving our nonpublic-school students. Additionally, more than half of the district’s transportation costs are for students we do not educate. At the school district’s voucher funding meeting on Jan. 9 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBNIRYHLDDI&t=3678s), the numbers used for per pupil spending were taken directly from the ODE’s website, under Report Card Resources.
Another bewildering area of finances is how to best calculate per-pupil aid from the state. I believe there are two good methods. At the Jan. 9 meeting, the district used $2,169 per student to make the point that each voucher student removes more than that from the amount that CH-UH is allotted by the state.
Basic Foundation Aid from the state is $6,020 per pupil multiplied by the percentage of this amount that the state determines each district can contribute. Last year, the state determined, through a complicated (and unfair) method, that CH-UH should get 36% of the Basic Foundation Aid, which is $2,169. The district was allocated this amount for every student educated in the school district--each voucher student, each charter student, and each transfer student.
Additional funds were given to the district for a variety of other earmarks, such as special education and career technical education. The district’s presentation made the point that each charter and EdChoice voucher student generated only the $2,169 from the state at the same time that the state removed $4,650 or $6,000 for the same students. Each of these students created a deficit that lowered the state aid for students who were educated by the district.
For purposes of comparing districts, the Heights Coalition for Public Education looks at all state aid, divided by all the students that generate that aid. State aid for CH-UH last year totaled $21.3 million for 6,727 students, resulting in an average of $3,239 per student.
After all the deductions for vouchers, charter, and transfer students, this left only $10.6 million for the 5,111 students educated in our public schools. In other words, 25% of the students generating our district’s share of state funds ended up costing our district 50% of its state funding. For more information from the Heights Coalition and how we used the Legislative Service Commission to calculate some of our numbers, visit http://chuh.net/coalition.
Because I teach math, I believe numbers should mean something. Facts should be verifiable and from reliable sources. Too often, numbers are conflated to tell a story that is not true. Please take the time to distinguish fact from fiction.
Ari Klein is a lifelong community member, math teacher at Cleveland Heights High School, and president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.