W-G super set to testify

Waynesfield-Goshen Local Schools Superintendent Chris Pfister is one of several school administrators scheduled to testify in front of the state’s House of Representatives Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee concerning Kasich’s recently released new funding model for public schools.

Pfister is among many superintendents who expressed optimism following a meeting with Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA)Jan. 31, when Kasich announced a more equitable funding plan would be applied to even out funding for schools in rich and poor districts.  However, when more details of Kasich’s plan were released approximately a week later, many rural districts found they would see no increase while some districts that could be considered rich would receive more funding.

Pfister described Kasich’s school funding as “an unsustainable plan.”

Pfister explained Kasich’s formula is unsustainable because of how it determines what districts are “rich” and which ones are “poor.”

He said with the new formula, school districts that may have higher property evaluation but lost enrollment numbers will be viewed as schools in need of added funding while schools with stable or increasing enrollment will be viewed as better off financially. Waynesfield-Goshen has a current enrollment of 582 students and maintains rather stable enrollment numbers.

Pfister said that school districts such as Indian Hill in the Cincinnati area currently spend approximately $16,000 per student in local funds while Waynesfield-Goshen spends approximately $2,600. These numbers are before state funding is added.

“It’s easy to see that while everyone has to follow the same rules, some will be able to meet those requirements with ease,” Pfister said.

Pfister has been in constant touch with several state legislators since the spring of 2012 when talk of the a new funding model was first suggested.

The Ohio Supreme Court declared Ohio’s current school funding as unconstitutional in 1997, but legislators have been arguing since on how to fix the issue. The new funding model puts Waynesfield-Goshen on a “guarantee” of $575,000 from state funding in fiscal year 2014 and $578,000 in 2015, approximately 10 percent of the school’s general fund.

Pfister said where the plan is missing is that many school districts that would have been considered “rich” districts that have seen drops in property values or enrollment are no longer considered rich. Many rural districts, districts viewed by many as “poor,” are now considered “rich,” or at least richer than they were. Some rural districts have had property values increase because of rising corn and soybean prices and or oil and natural gas drilling in other parts of the state.

“It looks good in theory, but is bad in practice,” Pfister said. “When I first saw it, I had been so optimistic that I thought it had to be a mistake. If you are a district with low enrollment, under a thousand, you will get no money. It is only helping districts that lost money.”

Pfister also said the proposal will set base funding at $5,000. Four years ago the average funding per pupil was at $5,732.

Pfister said Waynesfield-Goshen is in the bottom 10 percent in the state in property evaluation and must still meet the same mandates.

“When many districts can generate many times the local revenue per student and still be getting additional state funding and W-G receives zero, something is terribly wrong,” Pfister said.

Pfister said he is hoping state legislators will see the problems with the formula and not pass Kasich’s proposal in its current form as the school is projecting a $326,000 budget deficit for this year with increasing deficits the next two years.

Pfister is scheduled to speak along with many other school officials, who will be rotated in all morning starting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and allowed six minutes to speak.