The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 19, 2013

Kasich school plans fail to help districts

Buckeye, Grand Valley would receive a little more funding

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

— The optimism local school officials felt after hearing details of Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal a few weeks ago generally faded when hard numbers arrived this month

Only two districts — Buckeye and Grand Valley — would see gains in each of the upcoming fiscal years, according to simulations prepared for districts by the Ohio Department of Education. A third district, Pymatuning Valley, would receive a slight funding boost in fiscal year 2015.

The remaining districts would see no change in funding in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 — no cuts in the figures, as Kasich promised, but no increases, according to data found at cleveland.com.

The numbers were deflating, said John Rubesich, superintendent at the Ashtabula County Educational Services Center. Superintendents were led to believe their districts, because of their disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged and special needs students, stood to benefit from the proposed budget, he said.

“What the governor and his staff told us in Columbus just was not true,” he said. “Five of the seven districts will not receive any more money (in fiscal year 2014).”

The only beneficiaries in the upcoming fiscal years will see comparable numbers. Buckeye will receive state funds totaling about $5.5 million in fiscal year 2014, a 14 percent increase, according to the simulation. A 5.8 percent increase earmarked for the district in the following fiscal year brings the total to $5.86 million.

Grand Valley’s increases in fiscal year 2014 and 2015 are more modest — 4.2 percent and 4 percent, respectively. GV is slated to receive $5.5 million in 2014 and nearly $5.8 million the following year.

State funding, in part, is tied to a formula that includes property tax valuation. The shift of some Buckeye holdings to the Pymatuning Valley district may have helped impact Buckeye’s fiscal year 2014 numbers, officials said.

Joseph Spiccia, Buckeye superintendent, is puzzled by his district’s numbers.

“I don’t know why we got the money,” he said Monday. “We have the lowest millage rate in the county, but I don’t know if that’s a factor. I really can’t speak to why (the numbers) shook out how they did.”

Even if the funding holds firm, the boost represents no windfall for the district, Spiccia said. “Even with the increased funding, while helpful, it won’t solve the district’s problems,” he said.

Fiscal year 2014 and 2015 numbers contained in the Kasich proposal don’t change for these districts, according to cleveland.com: Ashtabula ($21,781,780); Conneaut ($10,840,890); Geneva ($10,881,678) and Jefferson ($7,142,609). Pymatuning Valley would receive nearly $5.9 million in fiscal year 2014 and an extra $100,442 in FY 2015, a 1.7 percent increase.

According to projections, Buckeye and Grand Valley would see increases — in varying degrees — in four categories: core opportunity aid, targeted resources, students with disabilities and English language learners.

Kent Houston, Conneaut superintendent, said he wondered if the “guaranteed” funding tag put on some districts somehow impacted the distribution. The guarantee is transitional aid that ensures each eligible district it won’t receive less funding than it did the preceding year.

“Being a guaranteed school, not everything the governor said may not come to fruition,” Houston said.

Rubesich was also upset with dramatic cuts to Educational Service Centers contained in the proposed numbers. Ashtabula County’s ESC would be sliced 84 percent, from $1.2 million to $245,000. Money once earmarked for ESCs, which provide a range of professional services and personnel to districts, would be channeled to districts, he said.

The proposal is disappointing because ESCs have been “touted as being the model for shared services,” Rubesich said.

School officials generally agree Kasich’s plan will undergo extensive remodeling by state lawmakers. “Fortunately for us, members of the General Assembly have the final say,” Rubesich said.