In what legislators called a double-decade effort, a public school funding formula model passed the Ohio House with bipartisan support.
The bill passed overwhelmingly, with a vote of 84-8.
State Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, brought the measure to the floor, just as he and now-House Speaker Bob Cupp brought the measure up the first time, after the Ohio Supreme Court decided multiple times that the current funding formula was unconstitutional.
“We have promised Ohio that we could better, and we will, and we can, and I ask you this afternoon, on this historic day, to make a decision that will impact Ohio for years to come,” Patterson said.
Several legislators spoke on how long the General Assembly has had to agree on a new school funding formula, and for some, their tenures as politicians have always included the education fight.
State Rep. Jamie Callender, R-Concord, said the education system problems overshadowed his career from the year he began as a representative in the late-1990s, just as the Ohio Supreme Court first ruled against the education funding formula.
“In all that time, 27 years, this is the first time that there has been a bill on this floor that universally acknowledged as meeting the constitutional requirements,” Callender said.
The bill creates the framework for the new funding formula, including a six-year phase-in of a formula that allows schools to be directly funded through the state, and leans less on property taxes to determine a school district’s local share of the operation costs.
It also creates a model for “categorical aid” for special education, gifted education, and economically disadvantaged districts.
When passed on Thursday, the only money attached to the bill was a $5 million appropriation to conduct studies on the true costs of funding education in Ohio. The bill’s authors have, however, said the education system as they see it will take almost $2 billion to implement.
State Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, who helped Patterson drive the bill along after Cupp became speaker, said that number shouldn’t make future general assemblies nervous as they decide how to fund the formula, because it is attainable.
“We do see that under our current structure, without tax increases, we could accomodate a six-year phase-in of this funding formula,” Scherer said on the House floor.
The bill now moves to the Ohio Senate, who also has a companion bill that is largely identical to the House bill.