Buckeye Institute: Education savings accounts give Ohio’s children the best chance to succeed

redefinED staff

Founded in 1989, The Buckeye Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit research and educational institution that provides Ohio legislators and executive branch policymakers with ideas, research and data.

On Wednesday, Greg R. Lawson, a research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, an independent research and educational institution whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states, testified before the Ohio Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee on a state spending bill.

In his testimony, Lawson outlined areas where the Senate can improve a proposed school funding formula to give families the resources they need to help their children succeed through adoption of education savings accounts to help students at every income level.

Here is an excerpt of Lawson’s testimony:

Speaker Bob Cupp and others have worked hard to meet that need, improve Ohio’s rickety school funding system, and lay a foundation for more education reform. Under the current school funding protocols, the state practically guesses at the per-pupil amounts needed to educate each child, with almost no reference to known inputs.

The new school spending plan proposed by the House uses a more transparent calculation of the actual costs to educate a student, and it moves away from the caps and guarantees for school districts that plague the current system. The House’s effort takes a solid first step in the right direction, but the Senate should address several concerns before declaring the House plan a success.

First, the new school funding plan ensures that the state’s K-12 education costs—already one of the largest budget line items—will continue to rise as the plan is implemented. But these rising costs are not fully funded by the budget, implicitly assuming that future general assemblies will act according to the plan. That assumption is dubious, leaving the state vulnerable to litigation if a future general assembly fails to fund the system, and casting doubt on the plan’s sustainability.

Second, the House underestimates the plan’s base costs by using three-year old teacher salary data from Fiscal Year 2018. Teacher salaries are sure to rise over time, making the plan’s true costs higher than advertised. 

Third, the plan does not distinguish between base costs paid by the state and those paid locally. Without that distinction, local decisions to increase teacher salaries with locally raised dollars may then increase the state’s costs, too, because the per-pupil base cost formula uses the total cost of teacher salaries to determine the state’s share.

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