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State Lawmakers from NW Ohio Decry Education Budget Cuts

By La Prensa Staff

The governor has ordered some stiff budget cuts for the last two months of this year’s budget cuts, many of those affecting K-12 education, prompting an outcry from at least one Northwest Ohio lawmaker. Gov. Mike DeWine last week slashed the state budget by $776 million, including $300 million from K-12 education. The state fiscal year ends on June 30, 2020.

School buildings will be closed at least through the end of the academic year and likely for most of the summer. Whether classes will resume as normal in the fall is another question mark. But the state’s tax collections dropped by $875 million in April, as the economy plummeted when many businesses were forced to close as part of Ohio’s pandemic response plan.

Teachers and students have continued classwork online with little time to prepare, while districts scrambled to provide learning tools for online classes—in many cases, Google Chromebooks, Internet access, and other needs.

Toledo Public Schools will lose $3.6 million, or about one percent of its annual budget. But TPS administrators already had implemented a spending freeze to absorb an anticipated funding cut. Under a state formula, suburban school districts lost a higher percentage of their budgets, even though the overall amount is less than TPS.

“Public schools have become lifelines to communities throughout the pandemic. With only a few days’ notice, educators found new ways to provide students with free meals, Wi-Fi hotspots and so much more,” said Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). “Our public schools are already being asked to do more with less and announcing these drastic cuts on Teacher Appreciation Day was a devastating blow to the professionals who are heroes to Ohio’s students.”

Local school administrators worry more about the long-term effect of the pandemic response and the revenues that may be lost if state tax collections continue to lag and property taxes go unpaid because unemployed residents defer or ignore payment deadlines. The status of the 2020-21 academic year is still up in the air, especially what form education will take.

The immediate problem, though, is balancing the budgets of local school districts, who are required to do so under state law by the end of the fiscal year June 30. Some districts will rely on reserve funds, others plan staffing cuts, and some even raised sports participation fees.

An Ohio Dept. of Education spokesperson points out some help is on the way from the federal government through the coronavirus relief bill.

Ohio will receive $489 million to support K-12 education, with $440 million available directly to local schools, based on their percentages of low-income students. Similarly to how they receive other federal support, districts must first apply for the funds and use them for specific purposes by September 2021. Nationwide, educators are calling on the federal government to do more.

The governor’s budget director also pointed out the K-12 education cuts could have been much worse. The state saved money already by canceling state testing and other actions during the onset of the pandemic.

Some public school districts also got a budget reprieve when the Ohio General Assembly rolled back an expansion of private school vouchers to a list first produced in 2018. That expansion would have cost many districts a lot of their state funding formula with nearly three times the number of school buildings as listed in academic distress. But the coronavirus pandemic has pushed a permanent fix on school vouchers to the sidelines for now.

The remainder of the governor’s budget cut plan affects higher education, Medicaid, and a percentage of each state agency’s annual budget. The governor’s budget director stated that if state revenue collections continue to lag, future cuts would be needed in consultation with the Ohio lawmakers. Those would come during the second year of the state’s biennial budget.

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/12/20 21:36:34 -0700.

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