Or when can Olentangy expect to receive more state aid?
Gov. John Kasich’s school funding proposal has been the topic of discussion not only on this website but in media outlets around the state. Introduced as just one piece of his biennial budget, the governor’s school funding proposal would see Olentangy increasing from receiving $271 in state aid per pupil in FY13 to approximately $1,168 per pupil or a 331 percent increase. However, when you realize the state’s average contribution per pupil in all districts is $3,200, Olentangy’s state aid still lags behind.
When can Olentangy expect the increase in state funds? Taxpayers can’t count their chickens until they are hatched. To explain the process ahead for the governor’s funding proposal, you have to go back to your childhood. Do you remember watching School House Rock on Saturday mornings in between Scooby Doo and The Jetsons? School House Rock explained the legislative process in terms young students could understand in a segment called I'm Just a Bill (sure, click on it!). Although I’m Just A Bill explained the legislative process at the federal level, the state’s process is very similar.
Governor Kasich’s school funding proposal is just a piece of his biennial budget. The full budget bill was released this past week as House Bill 59 and is more than 4,000 pages long. In addition to a new school funding plan, the bill has several controversial segments such as expanding the state’s sales tax base and decreasing the state’s income tax. The bill was assigned to the House Finance & Appropriations Committee, as all budget bills start debate in Ohio.
Because of the multiple segments of the bill, it is broken into parts for further review by five subcommittees. The school funding portion of the bill was to be debated in the Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education starting Wednesday. During this process, the governor’s office, special interest groups and the public will be allowed to voice opinions and concerns on the school funding proposal. The subcommittee schedule is available online at the House of Representatives website. Public testimony is expected to start Tuesday, March 12.
The subcommittee can make changes to the school funding portion of the bill before sending it to the full Finance & Appropriations Committee. There the school funding portion will be rejoined with the other portions of the bill. Because the school funding portion is intertwined within the full budget bill, any changes to any other part of the bill could very well change the school funding portion. Think of it as dominos all standing in a line — when one falls, that pushes the rest of them over. Thus, a change in one area of the budget bill might impact other areas of the bill.
The next step for House Bill 59 is to make it through the House Finance & Appropriations Committee. More hearings will be scheduled for ample input. The committee will most likely vote on the bill in late April or early May, and the full committee is allowed to make changes to the subcommittee’s changes.
Once the bill passes through the Finance & Appropriations Committee, it goes to the House for a vote. This is when the bill gets debated on the floor of the full Ohio House. This will most likely happen in May. Again, changes to the bill can be made on the floor.
After being fully vetted in the House and voted on, the process starts all over again in the Ohio Senate. In the Senate, the bill will start in the Finance Committee with the bill broken into pieces again. The school funding portion will be debated in the Education Finance Subcommittee. More testimony will be heard, more changes can occur and the bill is voted out of the subcommittee, then debated in the full committee and then ends up on the floor of the Senate where the bill is again debated on the floor before being voted on.
At this point, the bill that came out of the House is almost always different than the bill that comes out of the Senate. The differences are then debated in what is known as a Conference Committee. This committee, comprised of members of the House and Senate, is charged with ironing out the differences. Once an agreement is made in Conference Committee, the full House and Senate have to agree to whatever the Conference Committee comes up with.
But, the bill isn’t a law yet as the final bill has to be signed into law by Gov. Kasich – and he has veto power – he can veto the entire bill or just particular line items. It’s an exhausting process, but Ohio law says the budget must be signed into law by midnight on June 30.
Because of the enormity of the budget bill, many different interest groups (including other school districts) will want to have their voices heard. What can Olentangy taxpayers do? The district’s School Funding Action Committee is planning to conduct a letter and email campaign so that Olentangy residents can let elected officials know that for years Olentangy taxpayers have been financing the education of students in other districts while also passing operating levies and bond issues desperately needed to fund its own growing district. Editorials in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal and several other smaller papers have already spoken out against the governor’s school funding proposal and have specifically mentioned that Olentangy is receiving a 331 percent increase. We need to educate everyone on the fact that while it is a 331 percent increase, the dollar value is nowhere near the state’s average.
It’s going to be a long, heated process and Olentangy is clearly the exception in this debate and not the rule. Hopefully, like in I’m Just a Bill, the final law will cause Olentangy residents to celebrate. But until then, we can’t count any chickens until they have hatched.
Editor's note: For our readers' convenience, ONE Olentangy has reposted the contact information below:
Rep. Andrew Brenner
Phone: (614) 644-6711
Sen. Kris Jordan
Phone: (614) 466-8086
Rep. Gerald Stebelton, chair of the House Education Committee
Phone: (614) 466-8100
Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee
Phone: (614) 466-4538