Urban School Funds Adequate

New criticism of Ohio’s system of providing school districts more money to educate students from lower-income families may have some validity – but only providing it is not just an attempt to steer more money to big cities.

Ohio has a state funding formula intended to provide more money to school districts with large numbers of economically disadvantaged and special education students, as well as those with limited English-speaking skills. But the Education Tax Policy Institute, in a report Tuesday, insists the formula is flawed.

At the heart of the state system is a formula that, in effect, views dollars given to a school district as worth less if it contains disproportionate numbers of hard-to-educate children.

For example, according to the report, major urban districts received $14,200 per pupil in the 2011 fiscal year. The state’s adjustment reckoned that amounted to only $10,300 per pupil when adjusted for certain types of students.

Economist Howard Fleeter, who headed the study, told a reporter even that amount was too high. The $14,200 per pupil in actual dollars ought to be viewed as only $8,600 in terms of how much educational good it buys, he argues.

Ohio’s big urban areas already spend far more than most other school districts. During the 2011-12 school year, per pupil expenditures in the Columbus City School District totaled $14,614. In Cleveland the number was $14,551.

Here in East Ohio – where we, too, have to deal with various categories of challenging students – the numbers were far lower. A sampling shows Bridgeport schools spending $8,899 per pupil, Bellaire at $10,556, St. Clairsville-Richland at $7,629 and Steubenville at $9,225.

Big-city schools in Ohio spend nearly twice what most local districts do – and still turn out abysmally low achievement statistics.

State officials should rethink the school funding formula. Some East Ohio districts certainly could make good use of more state money. But if the new report is merely a new attempt to send more taxpayers’ money into the ratholes that are many urban school systems, state legislators should ignore it.