Last week was National Teacher Appreciation Week. Each of us can think of a teacher, or teachers, who made a difference in our lives. My children have both had excellent teachers, and we feel very fortunate to live in a community that has such a wealth of smart, caring educators. I hope we all take a moment to thank a teacher this week, and to proudly recognize educators who work every day to help nurture Ohio's children and prepare them for the future.
Public education is the foundation of the middle class, and we must fight to protect and improve our schools. Having the best schools and teachers is vital to growing our economy and preparing young people in our community for the jobs of the future.
Local school districts across the state are facing difficult decisions, including laying off teachers and cutting programs. Supporting teachers in their work necessarily includes providing the tools and resources to prepare our children for a successful future. It would be wise for leaders to recognize and support their hard work.
We have a responsibility together to make sure schools are working for our children. Last year, the state budget made historically deep cuts to education. To understand the impact, House Democrats calculated the projected school-funding deficit for every school district in Ohio based on their five-year forecasts. The results are sobering. In fiscal year 2014, the combined school-funding deficit in Ohio is estimated to be $1.79 billion.
Every week newspapers around the state are reporting possible teacher cuts, the elimination of bus routes, building closures, and lots of new levy attempts. Rural, urban, and suburban schools are all struggling in the current climate, and we cannot turn our backs on the kids and communities of this state.
My colleagues in the Ohio House and I have proposed a modest plan to help our schools and communities during these difficult times. Our plan, the Kids and Communities First Fund, would make up to $400 million available this year to keep teachers in the classroom, and police and firefighters on the streets.
While this would not solve all the problems, it would provide some immediate relief to communities around the state without a local tax increase. Our fund would use surplus revenue, currently $350 million and growing, and a portion of the Rainy Day Fund. Sadly, when offered as a budget amendment, it was rejected along party lines without ever being seriously considered, but I will be introducing this proposal as a standalone bill in the near future.
Currently, the state of Ohio is functioning without a formula or a plan for funding schools. Governor Kasich's budget repealed the formula, and replaced it with "bridge" funding. This has caused deep uncertainty for schools, and hearings on a new proposal are only now beginning. I trust that a good faith effort will be made to work together in a nonpartisan way to make real progress on a fair way of funding schools, so that children in Ohio have a good education, no matter where they live.
Students in our region should have access to a full curriculum, high level coursework, early childhood education, and other resources to enable them to develop their talents and find success in the world at large. Teachers are the key, and real appreciation will have to include making sure that teachers can do their life's work-helping to nurture the inquisitive minds entrusted to their care. Teachers are called to service. Let's do our part to show respect and appreciation for our teachers by taking seriously our responsibility to fund public education in Ohio.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I thank all the educators who work tirelessly for our children. I will continue working to ensure that our children have access to a high quality public education, throughout Ohio, and I hope you will, too.
Debbie Phillips represents Ohio in the 92nd District.