School funding is a complicated and somewhat confusing issue. According to the Ohio Department of Education there is a variance of per pupil spending of $13,000.
Keystone Local School District spends $7,381 and Beachwood spends $21,099 per pupil. The 2010-2011 per pupil spending in Marietta, Ohio, was $8,067.
Where does this money currently come from? According to Ohio's Current School Funding System, "Most states, including Ohio, fund schools through a combination of state, local, and federal funds. Federal funds make up only about 8 percent of the total. While it is a major portion of the state's budget, state spending for schools represents 46 percent. The remaining 46 percent of funding for schools come from local taxpayers."
First the state determines how much it should cost to educate a child with no special needs. That amount is currently set at $5,732 in the Ohio. This set amount of money is based on several factors including, average class size, average teacher salaries, average support staff salaries, and building maintenance and overhead. This is referred to as the foundation amount. A portion of this foundation amount is paid by the locality. This local portion is generally equal to how much a district would raise with a 2.3 percent property tax. In addition the state provides supplemental dollars for educational services which are considered to be beyond basics.
Supplemental funds for special education, vocational education, and transportation costs (requires a local match.) Poverty Based Assistance to help schools with additional costs they may incur for educating economically disadvantaged students.
As we all know this system has been declared unconstitutional four separate times, most recently in 2002. Ohio schools have been operating as Unconstitutional for 15 years. The major flaws in the current system include: heavy reliance on property taxes, inequities amongst school districts, not tied to effective strategies, and routinely leaves districts scrambling for dollars, according to Ohio's Current School Funding System.
What all of this boils down to is that the amount of money spent to educate a child in Beachwood, Ohio, is much different than the amount of money spent to educate a child in Marietta, Ohio. That difference being roughly $13,000 less for the child in Marietta, Ohio. Why do we allow that to happen? Are our children less deserving? Do our children deserve fewer opportunities?
Unfortunately there are limited ways of increasing our revenues for educating children in the state of Ohio. The $2.75 million emergency operating levy on the ballot on May 3 will allow us to provide a better education for the children of Marietta. It will allow our students to be less discriminated against educationally due to their ZIP code. I pledge to you that the money will not be wasted and that every dollar spent will directly influence the quality of the education of our children.
I can be reached at ma_bthomas@seovec with questions or comments.
Bruce Thomas is superintendent of Marietta City Schools.