School leaders worry about Kasich’s funding plan, rural schools hit hardest

BELOIT, Ohio (WYTV) – Rural school districts are feeling the pressure following Governor John Kasich’s budget proposal.

While some schools could see a 1 to 1.5 percent increase, many will not. According to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, Kasich proposes altering the funding guarantee for schools to cut state aid to districts that have lost 5 percent or more of their students. Districts that have the property wealth to sustain higher local taxes should help themselves, the governor said.

Locally, West Branch could lose $500,000, while a district like Leetonia could see a bump of about $50,000.

Large districts like Cleveland and Columbus will see bigger increases.

Under that formula, rural districts could face tough decisions related to money. Some superintendents worry that shrinking school populations pointed out in Kasich’s funding plan could lead to consolidation of districts.

“Potentially choking us off into consolidation of some type, which again, is not an easy thing to bring about,” said West Branch Superintendent Tim Saxton.

Leetonia Superintendent Robert Mehno, along with other local school leaders, conducted an analysis of Governor Kasich’s recent budget proposal. Their report says the average rural district would lose around $91 per student, while urban districts gain $391.

“They are not getting enough money and it forces consolidation. That is how it makes you feel,” Mehno said. “It was actually worse last time. Last budget they (large districts) gained minimal from the governor’s proposal.

Saxton and Mehno said there are only so many accommodations that can be made before districts have to turn to voters for funding.

State Rep. Joe Schiavoni, D-District 33, said the budget isn’t a done deal yet. It still has to pass the House and Senate.