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Proposed Ohio Budget Undermines Public Education

By Bekky Baker, Program Manager

Every two years the Governor and the Ohio Legislature prepare and finalize the budget for the state of Ohio. The Senate just released their version of the budget and while it came with little surprises, it does not look pretty. The Senate will vote on the budget and then the budget will go to the House who will state what they want to be changed or removed. After which, members from the Senate, House and the Governor’s office will meet to go line-by-line to finalize which version of the budget will move forward.

As it stands, the budget takes a major blow to Ohio’s education system that is already weakened by a years-long pandemic, right wing propaganda on parent’s rights, and the increasing push to privatize public education. Rather than supporting democracy and the numerous studies and statistics that show funding public education increases positive outcomes for students and the economy, the legislature has decided to dig their heels into perpetuating policies that breed inequity.

Back in 1997, DeRolph v. State found that funding public schools through property taxes was unconstitutional and created inequities across school systems. Despite this ruling it took another court case in 2003 to state that the legislature must come up with a solution. It’s 2023 and we’re still waiting for that solution. The funding of schools through property tax is especially heinous given the practices of redlining that ran rampant starting in the 1930s as neighborhoods outside of the city center were developed. Relegating who was allowed to live where and funding schools based on the wealth of said neighborhoods created schools that were not only racially segregated but that lacked equitable resources. That means some schools have a lack of teaching materials, have overcrowded classrooms, and an inefficient number of support staff to run the building. 

Instead of addressing inequitable funding in schools, we are facing a statewide budget in 2023 that enshrines school vouchers as a viable solution to all of the issues facing schools right now. This presupposes that there is a viable option for all children to attend a private school of their choice near them and it still only supports families that are able to make up the rest of the cost that is not covered by the voucher. It pushes public dollars into private businesses, taking away funding for public schools that would support all children, and preserving the inequitable systems of education that we were supposed to be fixing for the past 26 years. Rather than address the problem, the legislature is pushing for a heavier reliance on property taxes to fund schools. In addition to vouchers, the budget eliminates the House-approved raise of base teacher pay from $30,000 to $40,000 while we are facing a teacher shortage. 

As many of you have learned through the Race and Racism in Cincinnati docuseries, IJPC is dedicated to understanding how race and racism has shaped our policy and what effects those policies continue to have today. We discuss this issue in particular in Part Two of the Race and Racism in Cincinnati docuseries which could be banned at higher education institutions if some of the other budget measures go through. At the end of the day this budget perpetuates systemic racism, arbitrarily applying funding to places already flush with money, and meant to support the few rather than thinking about the longevity of the whole. 

It is enlightening to know and understand what it is happening in our government and it is empowering to know why it is happening. Together, we can challenge this unjust system and this unjust budget. You can contact your Senator and House Representative today to tell them your views on the budget and that you support funding public education in its entirety. The next step is to call Senator Matt Dolan, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee at 614-466-8056.