It's time for fair school funding
The following is a shortened version of the testimony I gave to the Ohio State Senate’s K–12 Education Committee on May 5, in support of HB-1:
Like you, I think my community is pretty amazing. We in the Heights pride ourselves on our racial, economic and religious diversity. We believe that diversity is our strength. Yet, when you [talk to] someone who has looked for a home here, the most common [comment] is, “I love Cleveland Heights and University Heights, but the taxes are so high.” Residents agree, and some may think it is because their tax dollars aren’t used well.
But that is not the case. In so many ways, we have fallen into a black hole with regard to the funding of our schools.
Our public school population is a diverse group. All of the children in our public schools qualify for free lunch because so many of our kids are eligible. Ten percent of the children attending Noble Elementary School come from refugee families from Bhutan. Many of our kids are in foster care, and some of our kids live in huge mansions in families that could have chosen any private school around, but chose public because it reflects their values. A more homogeneous group of kids might be cheaper to educate, but then it would not be Cleveland Heights-University Heights.
We have chosen to tax ourselves to the hilt because of the manner in which Ohio funds its public schools, and because of our own commitment to the children in our community, but we are tired of it.
We are tired of the cap on state funding, which results in new students not generating new dollars. We are tired of EdChoice dollars coming from district funds instead of directly from the state (and with no cap). We are tired of being considered wealthy, when anyone taking a look at the actual income of our families would never make that assessment.
We are tired of having to explain to citizens every three years that our state designed a system in which the additional funds needed just to keep up with inflation are the responsibility of homeowners, yet again. But mostly, we are tired of the inadequate contribution that the state of Ohio has made to the 90% of children who attend public schools in the state.
The Fair School Funding Plan addresses many of the complex issues around school funding. It takes into account both property values and income of the residents of a community. It funds EdChoice vouchers at the state level instead of saddling homeowners with bills that leave some communities writing checks to the state, and costing my district over $9 million this school year. It addresses the true cost of education and provides a framework to share the cost between the community and the state. It pays for state mandates, such as busing. This is a plan that has been in the works for three years. It has been researched and studied extensively. It needs to be passed—now.
Robin Koslen is a mom, grandma, Cleveland Heights resident, retired teacher, part-time activist, and full-time rebel.