K-12 public schools in Ohio enroll over 1.8 million students, with 36% in poverty, 2% learning English, 21% minorities, and annual expenditures of about $19 billion. (Most recent NCES and ODE data)
The Ohio Supreme Court held on four occasions that Ohio’s then-current school finance system violated the state constitution, and in 2002 the court did not retain jurisdiction over the DeRolph school finance litigation, noting that it was the legislature’s duty to remedy the flawed funding system. In 2009, at the governor’s urging, the legislature enacted a new finance system but did not fund it due to the state’s recessionary revenue shortfalls.
In 2009, the Court of Appeals of Ohio affirmed a trial court decision dismissing Brown v. Columbus City Schools, a suit brought by taxpayers who alleged that disparities in per pupil funding within the district violated the state constitution. The court found that the plaintiffs, who were not students or parents of students, had no standing to bring the case because they suffered no personal injury and the case did not fall into a narrow exception allowing issues of great public importance to be brought by individuals without a personal stake.
In DeRolph v. State, filed in 1991 by a coalition of most of the states’ school districts, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the trial court and held, in 1997, that Ohio’s school finance system violated the constitutional education article. Specifically citing the "Foundation Program," over reliance on local property taxes, "forced borrowing," and insufficient state funding for school facilities, the court ordered a "complete systematic overhaul." A number of state reform efforts improved facilities funding, but failed to remedy the other unconstitutional provisions, according to subsequent court rulings in 2000 and 2002.
In 2003, in State v. Lewis, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected plaintiffs’ final attempt to obtain a judicial remedy by refusing a compliance hearing, noting that although the system was still unconstitutional, it was the legislature’s duty to enact a remedy.
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“The General Assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state; but no religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this state.” Oh. Const. art. VI § 2.
In Miller v. Korns, the Supreme Court of Ohio established that: “A thorough system could not mean one in which part or any number of the school districts of the state were starved for funds. An efficient system could not mean one in which part or any number of the school districts of the state lacked teachers, buildings, or equipment.” 140 N.E. 773, 776 (1923). This statement was reiterated by the court in both Cincinnati School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Walter, 390 N.E.2d 813. 825 (1979), and DeRolph v. State, 677 N.E.2d 733, 741 (1997) (DeRolph I).
In DeRolph I, the court further noted that “state funding of school districts cannot be considered adequate if the districts lack sufficient funds to provide their students a safe and healthy learning environment,” 677 N.E.2d 733, 744 (1997), “[a] system without basic instructional materials and supplies can hardly constitute a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state as mandated by our Constitution.” Id., and that “it is virtually impossible for students to receive an adequate education with a student-teacher ratio of [more than thirty students per classroom teacher,” Id.,
The court in DeRolph I also explained that: “The responsibility for maintaining a thorough and efficient school system falls upon the state. When a district falls short of the constitutional requirement that the system be thorough and efficient, it is the state's obligation to rectify it.” Id. at 745. At the same time, the court emphasizes that its interpretation of the constitution in no way “impos[es] spending ceilings on more affluent school districts.” Id. at 746.
In DeRolph II, the court wrote that:
“The definition of “thorough and efficient” is not static; it depends on one's frame of reference. What was deemed thorough and efficient when the state's Constitution was adopted certainly would not be considered thorough and efficient*10 today. Likewise, an educational system that was considered thorough and efficient twenty-five years ago may not be so today. Moreover, it is impossible to generate an all-inclusive list that specifically enumerates every possible component of a thorough and efficient system. In light of this, we offer the following guidance: A thorough system means that each and every school district has enough funds to operate. An efficient system is one in which each and every school district in the state has an ample number of teachers, sound buildings that are in compliance with state fire and building codes, and equipment sufficient for all students to be afforded an educational opportunity.” 728 N.E.2d 993, 1001 (2000).
Ohio has one active preschool initiative.
Ohio’s Early Childhood Education program (ECE), introduced statewide in 1990, provides pre-K programs to 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families. This program serves only 2% of 4-year-olds, 1% of 3-year-olds, and is rated a 3 out of 10 on established quality indicators.
In prior years, this report also profiled the Early Learning Initiative program, which uses funding from TANF to mirror the educational and comprehensive services of the ECE program while providing full-day, full-year programs to working families. However, funding for the ELI program was eliminated entirely from the state budget for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 program years and therefore ELI is not profiled in this report.
Elected officials have championed increased access to high quality pre-K, pointing to research that has demonstrated the wide range of social, economic, and educational benefits of such programs.
Early Childhood Education
The Ohio Department of Education oversees the ECE and disburses funding to low-wealth social districts as part of at-risk program aid.
A school district may establish a pre-K program in the public schools, or may contract with a Head Start program, a non-sectarian school, or a licensed private child care provider.
ECE is open to 3- and 4-year-olds if their families earn no more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Children from families above 200% can also attend the program using district funds or parent tuition, if space permits.
ECE programs must be at least half-day, school year programs.
School districts that demonstrate a need for a pre-K program and qualify for state supplemental school funding [at-risk program aid] are permitted, but not required to operate a pre-K program under the ECE. The department of education allocates supplemental funding based on the rate of poverty in the district.
Funding for the pre-K program comes from the State’s general revenue, supplemented by local funds. Funds for new programs or the expansion of existing programs are awarded to providers through a competitive grant process.
Children from families at or below the federal poverty level attend for free, and tuition fees are charged on a sliding scale for families between 101% and 200% of the poverty level. Once state-funded slots are filled, children from families above the 200% level may be admitted to the program, at full tuition.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), Ohio's Early Education program served only 2% of 4-year-olds and 1% of 3-year-olds in the 2009-2010 school year.
Early Childhood Education
ECE reached 2 out of 10 benchmarks in the 2009-2010 program year.
The 2 benchmarks reached were:
- Requirement that teachers have specialized training in pre-K education
- Screening/referral and support services
The 8 benchmarks not met were:
- Monitoring/Site visit program
- Early Learning Standards
- Teacher must have Bachelor’s degree
- Assistant teacher must have a Child Development Associate credential, or equivalent
- Teacher in-service (15 hours)
- Class size limits of 20 students
- Class ratio of 1:10 or better
- Requirement to provide at least one meal a day
Annual visits are conducted for basic health and safety compliance indicators, and these visits also include the monitoring of quality in many cases, although it is not required.
Programs must engage in a continuous improvement process by developing a program plan and rating themselves on a set of compliance and performance indicators of program quality. Programs annually report the results of this process through a program monitoring tool, IMPACT (Integrated Monitoring Process and Continuous Improvement Tool). The Ohio Department of Education reviews the results and provides feedback to individual program sannually.
THis program was evaluated for process quality during fiscal years 2008 and 2009. This evaluation method will continue through the 2010-2011 school year, with the information used to identify the best use of state resources for eacher support.
Ohio charter schools are drastically underachieving compared to its public schools. Based on test scores, the state found 23% of Ohio’s public schools “Excellent with Distinction” but only 1% of its charter schools. Only 0.2% of Ohio public schools are in “Academic Emergency,” while 18.7% of Ohio charter schools are in that category.