This week, the House Finance Committee accepted a substitute bill for HB110, the biennial budget. Along with an unexpected tax cut, the House included the Cupp-Patterson funding formula. The formula would be phased in over six years, which immediately calls into question whether the plan is constitutional. Ohio’s constitution forbids the General Assembly from committing future General Assemblies to specific legislation. It is useful to note that the funding formula from the Strickland administration (HB1 in the 128th General Assembly) had a ten-year phase-in period. The formula was removed in the next General Assembly. Senate President, Matt Huffman, has indicated that he has reservations about including the Cupp-Patterson funding formula in the budget. If passed, the new gifted funding formula would supposedly provide $83.7. million to districts for in FY2022 and $79.2 million to districts in FY2023. Without access to the formula calculations, it is difficult to know why funding would decrease in FY2023. Current funding (based on the last calculations possible) is about $74 million. While the funding is somewhat more robust in the new formula, the distribution of those funds would be significantly different. Because the new gifted funding formula has state share applied, funds would shift from wealthier districts to less wealthy districts. On the surface, this is a good idea, but many of those lower wealth districts do not fully spend the state gifted funds provided right now. This leads to other changes in the bill for gifted.
Included in the bill are significant district accountability provisions for gifted funding and transparency for how districts are serving gifted students as well as how many licensed gifted staff are employed or contracted. This information would be publicly available. State gifted funds not appropriately spent on gifted students would be deducted from the district’s foundation payments. ODE would be required to audit service numbers. OAGC supports these changes regardless of the funding system. Also included in the substitute funding bill is a provision that would require ODE to study ways to provide incentives to districts to serve gifted students in rural areas as well as in districts where there underserved gifted subgroups. OAGC also supports this provision. Credit for these provisions goes to Representative Tracy Richardson (R), Chair of the House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. Rep. Richardson is strong supporter of Ohio’s gifted students.
The substitute bill also keeps the $3.8 million in gifted units allocated to Educational Service Centers. While OAGC still has concerns about some aspects of the gifted funding formula in Substitute HB110, the substitute bill improves gifted funding accountability considerably. The House is expected to vote this bill out next week where it will be deliberated in the Ohio Senate.