Four Portage County school districts are targeted to receive an increase in funding from Gov. John Kasich's plan for school funding reform.
The numbers behind Ohio's school funding reform were announced Wednesday.
The Ravenna School District is set to receive the greatest increase of Portage County districts -- more than $1.5 million extra for 2014 compared to fiscal year 2013. Of the other school districts receiving increased funds, about $858,000 will go to the Field Local School District, about $457,000 will go to the Aurora City School District and about $31,000 will go to the Streetsboro City School District.
The remainder of Portage County's school districts will see no change in funding from the previous state budget. No school districts across the state will see a reduction of funds from the previous budget.
Ravenna Superintendent Dennis Honkala pointed out that it's early in the process and it will be a long time before the bill becomes law, and it is too early to say if Ravenna actually will receive the $1.5 million increase.
But he said the state funding will not delay a levy request expected to go on the November ballot. He noted that the district will have to begin the process of starting a levy campaign before the proposal goes into effect.
"This would be a short-term fix. It doesn't solve our financial problems," Honkala said.
If the proposal goes into effect, he expects funding to come as early as July.
Honkala's not sure why Ravenna seems to be targeted for such a large increase, but a recent conference call with the governor's office indicated that more funding would be given to lower-wealth districts. Regardless, Ravenna isn't spending the money just yet.
"I would caution anyone against making this into a long-term fix," he said. "I would encourage everyone to be really cautious and really patient."
Kasich said last week that the state will provide increased funding for poorer school districts statewide.
Barbara Mattei-Smith, assistant policy director in the Kasich's education office, said Wednesday that distribution of funds to school districts is tied to changes in property valuation and enrollment, and in the past five years since a funding formula was in place, the state has seen significant shifts in those areas.
"We have had some fundamental shifts in what our districts look like over the course of the last five years, and the numbers reflect how people have moved, how property values have changed and, to a great extent, what is the capacity of these districts," Mattei-Smith said, noting that urban and suburban areas have generally seen decline in property values along with increased enrollment, while rural property values have increased.
The formula is based on what a 20-mill levy would generate in a district with property valuations of $250,000 per students.
"(Students in poorer districts) are getting the same opportunity as students in a district that has that $250,000 valuation per pupil," said Dick Ross, lead education adviser to Kasich. "It's about comparability and making sure that students in poor communities and with special needs are able to have the same opportunity."
The school funding reform plan also entails funding for pre-school youth in poverty, programs for the disabled, gifted students and creates a "Straight A" fund of $300 million in one-time grants for districts to improve their operations and reduce costs. Certain students also will have greater access to vouchers to attend private schools.
Kasich said the plan is fully funded, with about $7.4 billion and $7.7 billion in state general revenue and lottery money each year of the biennium, up from $6.9 billion this fiscal year.
Record-Courier reporter Diane Smith contributed to this story.
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