Home The Campaign A Video Message Endorsements Volunteer!

Fix School Funding

A Legacy of Failed Leadership

     When the legislature and the Governor were under orders from the Supreme Court to fix the funding system, they tinkered with a system that everyone agreed was fundamentally broken. As disappointing as the response to the Supreme Court's order was, when the Court declared in 2002 that it would no long enforce its order, things actually got worse. Since 2002 the legislature has steadily retreated from its Constitutional responsibility to fund a thorough and efficient system of schools.  As a result, the burden of paying for schools has been gradually shifted back to local taxpayers.  At the same time costs have escalated - especially utilities, fuel and health care for its employees.

     The response from the current administration, the Legislature and the State Board of Education has been to ignore the plight of traditional public schools in favor of charter schools - a system of privately-operated schools that persists despite an abysmal academic record.

What We Need

     More than anything else, we have suffered under a poverty of leadership. Ohio's children need a new team of leaders who will bring together administrators, teachers, parents and taxpayers from a diverse range of urban, suburban and rural schools to negotiate a comprehensive reform of our school funding formula.

     This is no easy task - anyone who says he or she has the answer at hand is not being realistic. The job involves crafting a new system which ensures fairness for all and provides necessary aid to poorer districts, but neither punishes nor unjustly rewards high-wealth districts.

     As a member of the Ohio Board of Education, Tom Sawyer will bring decades of experience in pulling together disparate groups to work out a common solution. And he will take the point in advocating for a comprehensive reform proposal in the Legislature and, if need be, at the ballot box.

Funding Reform Concepts

     Before anyone can responsibly discuss a comprehensive strategy for school finance reform, he must sit down and work with the people who would be affected. Tom has worked with the participants in the school funding reform movement for years. He knows the issues and how the various groups and their needs interact. In his work in this issue, Tom has found broad agreement on some basic principles for funding reform:

          -- Lower Reliance on Local Property Taxes.

     One major criticism by the Supreme Court was that the state funding formula relies too much on local property taxes to fund schools.  This over-reliance on property tax is as the root of many of the problems with our funding system.  It allows state officials to escape responsibility for funding schools and amplifies disparities in wealth among districts.  Communities are forced to waste resources on levy campaigns and endure fractures as levy campaigns pit neighbor against neighbor.  Property taxes are squeezing people with fixed or limited incomes including the elderly, the disabled and the working poor.

          -- A Guaranteed, Enforceable Right to Adequate Funding.

     The potential pitfall with shifting funding away from local property taxes is that is puts more power in the hands legislators who have failed to support schools in the past.  For this reason, any system that increases the state share of education must also provide some enforceable guarantee of adequate funding.

     We can guarantee proper funding by establishing a fundamental right to quality education, specifying in the Constitution a procedure for enforcing that right and setting up an Education Trust Fund to finance our schools.

          -- "Costing Out" a High-Quality Education. 

     Currently Ohio's state support for education isn't based on how much we need; it's based on how much the legislature wants to spend.  The Supreme Court harshly criticized this system, known as "residual funding," but the legislature did little to fix it.  We need a system that first studies the elements of a quality education and determines what it costs to provide those elements.  Tom proposes that the State Board of Education play a key role in defining the elements of a “thorough and efficient system of education,” costing out its components, and proposing a fairly distributed education budget for Ohio.

          -- Cap the Local Share and Cut Property Taxes. 

     With Constitutional guarantees in place, we should be able to limit what the State charges off as the local share for education and to cut local property taxes.  The system should allow local districts the discretion to ask their voters for additional levies for “extras,” but each school should be able to rely on the state, plus a limited local share, to pay for the essential elements of a quality education.




Paid For by "Vote Tom Sawyer" ● Martin Spector, Treasurer ● 4040 Embassy Pkwy ● Suite 500  Akron, OH 44333