Deteriorating school facilities across Ohio are hurting students’ academic outcomes, largely as a result of state funding formulae that allow in-need districts to fall through the cracks.
The impact of school facilities on student and faculty success rates is undeniable. Of all the levers that Superintendents and District Treasurers have at their disposal, investment in better facilities is perhaps the most straightforward — and most expensive — way to improve student outcomes.
Ohio’s legislators and courts have long acknowledged the critical role that adequate facilities play in protecting every student’s right to a good public education. But while recognition of the problem is there, and while policies and funding formulae have been enacted in response to this problem, equitability remains a distant political ambition — some schools have great facilities, while others’ are falling apart.
Ohio’s Aging School Infrastructure
Since 1997, the state of Ohio has invested over $11 billion in the construction of more than 1,100 public school buildings, with construction budgets ranging from $1 million to as much as $250 million.
The funding is clearly there for some. In Clark County, for example, the Springfield City School District recently received $198M in state funding for the construction of 16 new buildings. And last year Springfield City opened 16 new or renovated K-12 school facilities while doling out over $88M in appropriations to 240 projects.
But in other districts, woefully inadequate and aged buildings remain — for example, the Troy City School District hasn’t built any new facilities since 1973.
Specifically, buildings like Alliance’s Franklin Elementary, which opened in 1963, suffer from outdated boiler systems, leaky roofs, and crumbling walls. The River View School District in Coshocton County consists of four elementary schools, all of which were constructed prior to World War II. And four of the seven elementary schools in Fremont were originally constructed in the 1920s.
So why are some districts reaping the benefits of state-funded construction projects, while others continue to work with what are very clearly inadequate facilities?
A Tricky Formula
Ohio’s state funding formulae for new school facilities are confoundingly complex. According to OFCC spokesman Rick Savors, the calculation is “mostly based on a district’s property tax base compared to its enrollment.” In short, the lower the tax base and the higher the enrollment, the more the state will pay.
The unfortunate result has been that the state often passes over districts that are only rich “on paper.” Take River View, which has a relatively large tax base and low enrollment levels, yet a median income far below the statewide average, River View’s offer from OCFF was a paltry 20% of the cost needed to construct new facilities. Faced with a $48M bill, its constituents voted not to move forward with the proposal.
Across the state, these “rich” school districts in dire need of new facilities are being short-changed by OFCC’s out-of-whack formulae, and students and faculty disadvantaged by the funding disparities are being forced to make do with inadequate facilities.
Getting Your Due
The formula for improving outcomes in public education includes providing students and faculty with suitable learning environments — but of course, that requires funding. And while the system may be complex and imperfect, Superintendents and Treasurers can take steps to ensure that they receive every last penny of funding to which they’re legally entitled.
It’s hard for EMIS stakeholders to avoid making mistakes in their reporting duties, and these mistakes can translate to lost funding. But while we all wait for the state to address the inconsistencies in the OFCC’s formulae, Supers and Treasurers should invest in tools available right now that can help stakeholders ensure no funding slips through the cracks — tools like Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform.
CheckPoint empowers districts to check and verify their critical student data throughout the school year, making it easy to ensure that no student goes uncounted or misrepresented. Achieving the highest possible success rates and best possible outcomes in public education means ensuring that students and faculty have access to the resources they need. And CheckPoint is designed to help educators in the state of Ohio do just that.