Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
The Portsmouth City School District hosted its quarterly education forum at the high school Thursday. During that meeting, Superintendent Scott Dutey spoke about Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s new school funding plan that was supposed to give more money to low-wealth districts, but instead, Dutey said, mostly helps the wealthy districts.
“When they talked about the three major areas that they trumpeted districts would receive additional funding … it just seemed like they were talking to us. It seemed like they were talking to Portsmouth City, like we were going to be the poster child for this. When you think about low property valuations, of which we have, we’re in that bottom fifth quintile in the state. You would think that would have directed dollars toward us,” Dutey said.
Gov. Kasich announced his new school funding plan on Jan. 31, boosting districts that are lagging in property values and household incomes. Barbara Mattei-Smith, Assistant Policy Director for Education in Kasich’s office, said the governor’s plan is to bring every district up to a level of funding as if they had $250,000 of property value for each pupil in their district.
“They made a big deal out of all of the superintendents coming in. I likened it to like a made-for-TV event. You had all the cameras and the governor making his big speech. I can tell you at the end of that hour-and-a-half in which Gov. Kasich and two of his staff that deal with education and funding … all of the effort they went into. I don’t want to call it a performance but it almost was. The governor at the beginning of his talk said it was really very simple. The rich districts would get less and the poor districts would get more,” Dutey said.
But after releasing the numbers earlier this month, many superintendents across the state said that’s not what happened after all.
“At no point would any superintendent sitting in that room thought that what came out a week later would have been the end result,” Dutey said.
No district will have their funding cut in Kasich’s plan, but Dutey said 60 percent of the districts in Ohio will see no increase at all — including Portsmouth. The governor’s proposed plan will continue the current Portsmouth City School budget of $17,345,505 each year with no increase. Meanwhile, schools like the Olentangy School District in Delaware County walked away with a 332 percent increase in 2014 to collect $19,015,170, and then a 23 percent increase in 2015 to collect $23,473,975.
“I’ve seen Olentangy, and New Albany, and Delaware, and Orange, and Vandalia, and Solon. I’ve been to all these places and seen them firsthand. Even though their property valuations may have come down some, with that you’re talking about several hundred-thousand dollar properties. It may have dropped $50,000, or whatever,” Dutey said. “But I’m sure those kids are going to be OK.
“Even though the additional money, I’m sure, is appreciated by them, I don’t think they needed it. Whereas you come down to this part of the state, down to Ross and Lawrence and Scioto and Pike and all these counties down here in Appalachia; to think that out of 36 different districts in this area only five or six received additional dollars.”
In Scioto County, only Northwest, New Boston and Scioto County Career Technical Center will see funding increases in Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. Northwest will receive an 8 percent increase in 2014 to collect $11,711,204, and then a 3 percent gain in 2015 to collect $12,086,346. New Boston will receive a 16 percent increase in 2014 to collect $1,883,686, and then an 11 percent increase in 2015 to collect $2,097,464. The Scioto County Career Technical Center will receive an increase of 12 percent in 2014 to collect $3,024,925, and then no increase in 2015.
Other school districts in Scioto County will see no change in funding; Bloom-Vernon will remain at $5,420,930, Clay at $2,619,904, Green at $3,126,068, Minford at $8,616,070, Valley at $6,616,853, Washington Nile at $9,506,363, and Wheelersburg at $6,236,472. Funding data was not available for Sciotoville or Notre Dame schools.
Dutey said he believes this is the state’s way of making up for the previous system of school funding that benefited low-wealth districts through property valuations. That system was ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in 1997 in the landmark case of DeRolph v. State. Now, Dutey said, Kasich is using a new funding formula as an opportunity to send some of that money back to wealthy districts, and that’s not the plan that was sold to the superintendents.
“What I think it boils down to, is the last 15 or 20 years, both the legislature and ODE (Ohio Department of Education) and lots of districts in the state that are wealthy have been upset that dollars came our way as a results of the original DeRolph lawsuit, and this was a way to balance that,” Dutey said. “They claim it’s constitutional, and I know at least 400 districts in the state that are going to disagree with that.”
Despite the fact that Portsmouth will see no increase in the governor’s funding plan, should it be passed, Dutey said he’s at least very thankful they won’t be cut. But without additional funding, he warned the district may be forced to make some tough decisions in the future to limit its staff.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.