The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

January 31, 2013

Kasich says plan helps poor school districts

COLUMBUS —  Ohio Gov. John Kasich unveiled a school-funding overhaul on Thursday that he said is aimed at helping students in poor districts compete while introducing changes meant to reward and highlight innovation.

The Republican governor’s long-awaited plan would boost districts that are lagging behind in property values and household incomes. Kasich education advisers said no schools would see reduced funding next year under the current formula, to allow them time to adjust. A special fund with $300 million in additional money would be created to reward districts with grants for innovation and efficiency.

“This is a plan that says that every student in any part of the state, regardless of what kind of district they come from, should be given the resources to be able to compete with a child across the state,” Kasich said.

Kasich aides said state funding for K-12 districts would rise nearly 6 percent in fiscal year 2014, and 3.2 percent the next year — a total of $1.2 billion more over two years from the state general fund and lottery proceeds. School budgets have been pounded by declines in other revenue sources, including the end of federal stimulus dollars, the phasing out of a state business tax, and declining property values in many areas.

Kasich advisers said the plan, dubbed “Achievement Everywhere,” proposes funding changes that would bring all schools up to the tax base level of a district with $250,000 in property value per student — a figure they said was at the 96th percentile of districts statewide — and would ease wide disparities in millage revenues.

The plan means to help districts with the extra costs of special-needs students and provide more school choice, such as expanding vouchers for parents to move children from low-performing schools to private ones. There is also funding help planned for districts with high levels of poverty where students don’t have access to preschool programs, and other aid to help them reach Ohio’s new third grade reading proficiency target.

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