Education budget returns to pre-pandemic levels in DeWine’s proposal

By: - February 2, 2021 12:40 am

Stock image from Pixabay.

The newly released budget proposal from Gov. Mike DeWine doesn’t change the K-12 funding formula, but it does return the education budget to pre-pandemic levels.

DeWine introduced his full budget proposal on Monday, and said the funding formula for schools didn’t change in his version of the budget because of the potential changes to be made by the legislature.

“We once again made a specific decision not to change the funding formula, knowing that both the House and Senate both had significant ideas and were well along in their process of developing a new formula,” DeWine told reporters on Monday. (You can read more about other budget proposals from DeWine in this separate OCJ article.)

In the last General Assembly, the Cupp-Patterson education overhaul bill went through months of debate and several hearings before dying in committee. Parts of the bill were inserted into the capital budget during the last days of the 133rd General Assembly, with Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, saying the funding formula would be a priority in the next legislature.

The Senate’s version of the funding formula, largely identical to the House version, also failed to make it out of committee last year.

DeWine’s version of the budget brings $13.1 billion to state schools, including $1.1 billion in “student wellness,” also known as wraparound funds, for issues impacting students outside of academics, such as medical and mental health issues.

The funding sees a small decrease in the second-year of the biennium, but Kimberly Murnieks, head of the state’s Office of Budget and Management, said the decrease is accounted for in a projected increase in lottery revenues for that year.

“Overall, the (Department of Education) foundation formula is again flat to fiscal year 2019,” Murnieks said.

Murnieks said in conversations with the governor as the budget proposal was formulated, it was agreed that wraparound services are “even more crucial now” with the pandemic affecting not only student learning, but also home life.

Qualifying charter schools are set to get a boost in the governor’s budget proposal, with a $54 million yearly increase to fully fund the Quality Community School Support Fund.

The funds can only be accessed by meeting academic and financial criteria, but through the funds the state hopes to “help successful charter schools build the capacity to serve more Ohio students,” according to budget documents.

Murnieks said funding needed for safety measures at K-12 schools is coming from federal sources.

According to budget documents, more than $2 billion in federal funding received as part of the latest federal coronavirus relief package will be appropriated for learning and student recovery plans. Previously, $450 million was appropriated from CARES Act dollars to be specifically by schools for COVID-19-related uses, according to Murnieks.

“Those funds can absolutely be utilized for all of the COVID safety measures and all of the other measures schools may need to catch kids up,” she said on Monday.

Reimbursable funds for child nutrition programs will also come from federal funds totaling $1.6 billion.

In terms of higher education funding, the state share of instruction (SSI) subsidy, the biggest piece of state support to colleges and universities, is increased a total of 1.8% under the governor’s proposal.

The SSI has stayed largely flat in the last few fiscal years, with 2019’s share at $1.98 billion and 2020’s dipping slightly to $1.94 billion. Fiscal year 2021’s subsidy is estimated to be just over $2 billion, before the potential budgetary increases.

Some scholarships like the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) and Choose Ohio First will see increases. The OCOG award will be bumped by $500 per student, and at least 2,000 new scholarships will be released for the Choose Ohio First program for students in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.