School funding and poverty in the suburbs

When Ohio Governor John Kasich released his “Achievement Everywhere” school funding plan in late February it was widely criticized for “stealing from the poor and giving to the rich.” Opponents of the governor’s plan noted “rich” suburban districts would see more state funding than poorer rural and urban districts. People wondered why the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, with a long history of poverty, would see no increase in state funding while Cleveland suburban districts like Euclid City would see a 21 percent increase in funding.

It didn’t seem to make sense, despite the arguments of the governor’s staff that Ohio’s demographics had changed considerably over the last decade (consider Cleveland had lost 30,000 students), and poverty was far more widely dispersed than most people thought. In response to the cries that the governor’s plan was unfair to rural and urban districts while a money grab for suburban districts the House rewrote the Kasich school funding plan to fund both rural and urban schools at higher amounts. This, it was argued, would be a fairer funding formula than what the Governor proposed and spreadsheets of the House plan did indeed show more rural and urban district benefiting from their plan than the governor's.

It is yet to be seen what the Senate is going to do per school funding, but one hopes that Senators are reading the new book from the Brookings Institution that reports “the suburban poverty rate in America has climbed by 64 percent over the past decade, more than twice as fast as the poverty rate in urban areas.”

The Brookings report confirms what supporters of Governor Kasich’s plan have been arguing since its release in February. Ohio’s demographics are changing and Ohio’s school funding formula needs to evolve to meet these new realities. Kasich’s plan tries to attach school funding to the actual needs of students, as opposed to attaching money to traditional perceptions about school districts and their poverty. Ohio should follow Governor Kasich’s lead and finally break away from thinking of school funding through the lenses of district “equity” and “adequacy;” between “rich” and “poor” districts. Poverty and needy students increasingly live in the suburbs and money for their education should follow them to their schools.  

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