It’s been a busy lame duck session in Ohio. Now thathas been , the big point of debate in education circles is Ohio’s school funding formula. The most discussed proposal, known as the , was initially put forward in the spring of 2019. It has undergone plenty of revisions since then, and the latest iteration has been introduced in a pair of companion bills currently before the and . While it’s that funding reform will pass , the proposal will almost certainly remain on the table when Ohio begins the budget process next year.
But the state’s school funding formula isn’t the only important fiscal issue. The upcoming budget season will occur in the backdrop of an economic downturn that will force lawmakers to carefully consider their priorities. In the education realm, three critical initiatives introduced by Governor DeWine duringshould remain high priorities: the , the , and . Let’s take a look at the purpose behind each of these initiatives and examine why lawmakers should continue to support them.
Quality Community Schools Support Fund
Despitewith similar student populations, public charter schools in Ohio continually receive the short end of the funding stick. A last year found that charters in the received approximately $4,000 less per pupil than their district counterparts. This funding gap severely of schools, networks, and the entire charter sector, which serves a large population of low-income and minority students. The previous budget attempted to reduce these funding gaps by creating the , which provided in state aid distributed to charters that meet and enroll at least 50 percent economically disadvantaged students. While the measure provides an additional $1,000 for each pupil, it offers even more dollars for low-income students (up to $1,750 per student). In January, the Ohio Department of Education that sixty-three of Ohio’s just over 300 charter schools met the criteria and would be awarded funds.
Charter schools are often a contentious topic in Ohio, and some may view this program as cut-worthy. But that would be a serious mistake. Eliminating a funding source that was needed even before the economic fallout of the pandemic would be grossly unfair, particularly since those funds are awarded to schools who enroll significant numbers of economically-disadvantaged students and serve them well. It’s no secret that school closures and remote learning have and will continue to cause, especially for . Brick-and-mortar charter schools in Ohio have that they serve these students well. To help them mitigate pandemic-related learning losses, they need all the funding and support they can get—and that means maintaining the Quality Community Schools Support Fund.
Thewas in the previous state budget, but guidelines for how to implement the program were established in , separate legislation that passed in the fall of 2019 with bipartisan support. The is to help Ohioans earn credentials and both current and potential employees. The General Assembly allocated per year for two years to reimburse employers for bearing the cost of credential training for employees. are eligible for reimbursement. They must be industry-recognized, able to be completed in no more than one year, approved by the chancellor of higher education, and technology-focused. The approved list currently contains over in the areas of business, healthcare, cybersecurity, manufacturing, and information technology.
There are several reasons why lawmakers should continue funding TechCred. For starters, the program has been a hit. After five application periods, 983 different Ohio employers have been awarded funding, resulting in 11,941 credentials earned. The program has also received theof the and individual employers, who have a “game changer” and an example of the state “putting their money where their mouth is.” Given the record and the shift to virtual-everything caused by Covid-19, a program that helps Ohioans earn technology-focused credentials is arguably even more important now than it was when TechCred was first created. It’s in the state’s best interest to help businesses upskill workers and to help job seekers get more and better training. That means it would be wise to keep TechCred in the mix.
Student Wellness and Success Funding
was in an effort to help public schools improve student wellness by addressing non-academic needs. The state allocated a total of $675 million for all public schools (district and charter) over the course of two fiscal years, awarded on a per-pupil basis according to the percentage of low-income children residing in a district. By law, schools , such as mental health services, mentoring programs, or professional development for staff related to trauma-informed care or cultural competency.
The evidence that student wellness services can impact academic outcomes is. But supporting student health and wellness for its own sake is commendable. And in light of the mental and emotional toll of the health and economic crises, school closures, and remote schooling, it’s become imperative. Without a doubt, maintaining this funding is going to be the hardest lift for lawmakers. That’s because the price tag is so hefty. The two-year student wellness allocation is more than sixteen times larger than the combined total amount allocated to TechCred and the Quality Community Schools Support Fund. But to deal with unprecedented loss and disruption, schools will need an unprecedented amount of support. Lawmakers could certainly pare down the total allocation amount. However, maintaining some level of funding is in students’ best interest.
All three of these programs target critical needs exacerbated by the pandemic. The Quality Community Schools Support Fund has allowed high-performing charter schools serving low-income and minority students—the populations most impacted by the pandemic—to expand their reach and increase their capacity. The TechCred program is improving statewidenumbers and helping employers and employees in the midst of a difficult economy. The Student Wellness and Success initiative, meanwhile, has provided dollars that can be used to address the mental and emotional costs of school closures. To maintain and increase their impacts, these programs must continue uninterrupted. Yes, money is tight right now. But these programs are a crucial part of the state’s efforts to serve all students well.