On Friday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine released his state budget proposals for fiscal years 2020–21. While we await the detailed policy language that will come when his budget is put into bill form in the General Assembly, his outline doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises. For some that will come as a relief, for others disappointment.

First thing’s first: Governor DeWine didn’t propose an overhaul of the school funding formula—the mechanism used to allocate state money to districts—which is likely a good thing, as he’s been in office barely two months. His budget proposes reasonable though modest increases in K–12 outlays. Overall, the administration recommends expenditures on primary-secondary education totaling $11.7 and $11.8 billion over the next biennium, a 3.2 percent increase over this year’s estimated $11.3 billion. These totals include federal funds administered by the state education agency, such as Title I and IDEA, but exclude local taxpayer dollars dedicated to education. When considering state-only general revenue funds, spending on K–12 education rises by 3.9 percent in FY 2020 relative to 2019.

That’s the big picture, but several commendable proposals are also worth highlighting. Let’s look at four of them.

Additional resources for high-poverty schools. In his State of the State address, Governor DeWine pledged more state money to support the needs of disadvantaged students. His budget delivers on that promise by recommending an extra $250 million per year in state funding that would be allocated to schools (including districts, charters, and career-tech centers) based on U.S. Census poverty estimates.  Since there is no current formula component that drives money to schools based on census data, this would likely entail the creation of a new formula element. His proposal indicates that certain uses of these new funds will be “encouraged”—things like wraparound services or tutoring—but we’ll have to wait for the actual budget bill language to see whether there are any requirements around spending these dollars.

Continuing the expansion of the income-based EdChoice scholarship. Starting in 2013–14, Ohio launched a private-school scholarship program open to any low-income student in the state. It has been phased in gradually, one grade at a time, with incoming kindergartners eligible in the first year. Students in grades K–5 are now eligible, and during the 2017–18 school year almost 10,000 youngsters availed themselves of these opportunities. To his credit, Governor DeWine opted to continue the implementation of income-based EdChoice, and his budget allows eligible sixth and seventh graders to access scholarships over the next two years.

Incentivizing the attainment of industry-recognized credentials. As of 2017–18, less than 5 percent of Ohio students left high school with valuable industry credentials that can open doors to rewarding, good-paying careers. Recognizing the need to boost the technical capabilities of more Ohio graduates, the DeWine budget calls for $25 million per year in new spending dedicated to in-demand industry credentials for high school students. His proposal doesn’t offer great detail about how the program will work, but it’s great news that new resources would be available for schools that are successful in helping young people earn credentials.

New funding for quality charter schools. Here at Fordham we have carefully documented the alarming funding shortfalls facing the state’s public charter schools. Over fiscal years 2015–17, urban charters received a staggering $253 million less per year than nearby school districts. Disparities of this size have resulted in an inhospitable environment for even the best and most effective charters to expand and serve more students in dire need of an excellent education. To help bridge this gap, Governor DeWine has proposed an additional $30 million per year for top-performing charters. While we believe that all brick-and-mortar charters should be funded equitably, this injection of new resources will hopefully kick-start the development of new, quality charter schools after years of stagnant growth. Hats off to Governor DeWine for recognizing the positive impact of great charter schools, especially for needy children. And here’s hoping that the legislature concurs.

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Kudos to Governor DeWine and his team for their work crafting the executive budget. It contains several exciting initiatives well-deserving of our support. If schools can leverage these new, targeted resources in the right ways, Ohio students stand to benefit.

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Aaron Churchill is the Ohio research director for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where he has worked since 2012. In this role, Aaron oversees a portfolio of research projects aimed at strengthening education policy in Ohio. He also writes regularly on Fordham’s blog, the Ohio Gadfly Daily, and contributes analytic support for…

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