Mailbag: What’s the deal with the Ohio school funding reform effort?

By: - December 17, 2020 12:30 am

School buses for Sandusky City Schools. Photo from Sandusky City Schools website.

Procrastinating on your errands? Rushing to get your Christmas shopping done? Whatever the case, just blame your troubles on lame duck.

It’s time for another Ohio Capital Journal Mailbag:

Got a question about Ohio politics/government? Send them by email to [email protected] or tweet them to @tylerjoelb.

As a public school teacher, I am curious about the likelihood that House Bill 305 is brought to the Senate floor and if it passes. A bill that is passed by 90% of one chamber should not be ignored.

– Brett Love, on Twitter.

Answer: You might not be thrilled to read the Ohio Capital Journal’s latest update from Wednesday: Education overhaul’s fate uncertain as lame duck nears end.

The effort to reform Ohio’s school funding model has been a long and winding road. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled decades ago that Ohio’s school funding model is unconstitutional. Advocates and educators have hoped legislators would finally come together this year to figure it out.

It appears that can is getting kicked down the road once more to 2021. 

OCJ reporter Susan Tebben has followed the developments throughout the year (you can read an explainer about the bill here). In short, it attempts to redesign the state’s funding model for public education with the goal of instituting a fairer, more balanced system.

State Reps. John Patterson and Bob Cupp introduced House Bill 305 in 2019.

The bipartisan bill was introduced in 2019 by state Reps. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, and Bob Cupp, R-Lima. As luck would have it, Cupp became Speaker of the Ohio House a few years ago. 

HB 305 might have made progress this year regardless, but Cupp’s promotion certainly didn’t hurt. It passed the House earlier this month by a vote of 84-8.

The bill then headed to the Ohio Senate, and it looks like it will die there. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, said education funding reform should come as a part of the next budget negotiation (in 2021). In a recent letter, Dolan called HB 305 “a great framework to build on during the state’s next budget process, which begins in January.”

Dolan lamented there not being enough time remaining in the legislative session for the Ohio Senate to have the “in-depth hearings this bill deserves.”

I’ll leave it for readers to contemplate why lawmakers feel they did not have enough time to properly consider a bill that was first introduced nearly 18 months ago. 

I encourage you to follow OCJ’s coverage next year to see if lawmakers follow through on that pledge. 

Any inkling on the direction post-Pepper of the Ohio Democratic Party leadership? Any hints on who is running for the big seven races in 2022? Should I be hopeful?

– @BVielhaber, on Twitter.

Answer: Hope? In politics?!! Best of luck with that.

There are six candidates vying to become the Ohio Democratic Party chair, reported. Chairman David Pepper is resigning at the end of 2020 and the party will vote on a new leader in January.

The next chair inherits a party that twice lost the presidential race to Donald Trump by fairly wide margins and faces Republican control of all three branches of Ohio government.

If you’re a glass half full type of Democrat and you squint a little bit, there is some room for optimism. The Democrats picked up a Supreme Court seat in November, tightening the Republican control to a 4-3 majority. A redistricting effort may lessen the competitive disadvantage for legislative campaigning. 

The new leader, one presumes, will be afforded a fresh start and a renewed focus on reversing the losses seen in the future belt (née “rust belt”) and other rural communities. 

That’s a key focus for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who told reporters on Wednesday he is more interested in what the prospective leaders will do as party chair than necessarily their political histories. Brown said the party needs to figure out how to win again in those rural areas in order to be competitive again statewide. Expect to hear a lot of talk about “an 88 county strategy” over the coming weeks.

Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Brown, who added he is not backing any of the chair candidates just yet. 

As for the 2022 races, we’re just going to have to wait and see. Democrats will field candidates for governor and lieutenant governor; auditor; attorney general; treasurer; secretary of state; and U.S. senator. 

I wrote a little bit about the subject in a previous Mailbag, especially in regard to the upcoming 2022 race against U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. Democrats of course will need a strong candidate to have a shot against Portman, a well-organized and well-funded incumbent. Except, the other statewide elections were all decided by a few in contrast to Portman’s last re-election effort in 2016, which he won by margin of over 1 million votes.

In other words, this is a tough puzzle to solve — trying to determine which prospective candidates should run for which races. We’ll see which Democrats throw their hats into the ring. 

Reading material:

Here are some important and interesting Ohio Capital Journal articles you may have missed: 

An Ohio county heard mixed messages on COVID-19. Now it’s a hotspot. – Darke County in rural western Ohio has become on of the major virus hotspots. I detailed how the county got to this point, drawing upon conversations with local residents and a timeline of public officials downplaying the pandemic.

Before outbreak, infected House GOP lawmaker skirted COVID-19 guidelines – Reporter Jake Zuckerman’s story outlined how a state lawmaker returned to work shortly after testing positive for COVID-19.

Two House Democrats hospitalized with COVID-19 – The recent outbreak at the Ohio House of Representatives has led to two lawmakers being hospitalized, Zuckerman and Susan Tebben uncovered earlier this week. 

Despite scandal, DeWine says he takes corruption seriously – Reporter Marty Schladen offered the governor’s latest reaction to the connections between his administration and the 2020 bribery scandal.  

Remembering lessons from my grandfather after losing him to COVID-19 – Editor David C. DeWitt wrote about his family’s recent loss and the lessons learned from his late grandfather.



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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.