“…property taxes can no longer be the primary means of providing the finances for a thoroughand efficient system of schools.” The battle continued in appeals until 2003, when the courtruled that it was the legislature’s job to fix the funding model.
Changes and Challenges
Bill Phillis has been the executive director of the OCEASF since 1992 when the DeRolph case
was first taking shape. He’s paid close attention to the attempts made to rectify the state’s
educational funding model since the initial DeRolph decision.
“To the state’s credit, in 1997 [after the conclusion of the DeRolph case] they put together aschool facilities committee,” Phillis says. That group used a tobacco tax windfall to invest in
constructing new school buildings.
“Thanks to DeRolph, there are over 1000 new school buildings,” Phillis says. “This was an
important moment, because a congressional study at the time showed Ohio had the worst public school buildings in the nation.”
Although many public school facilities have improved, the existing funding model for academic expenses remains problematic. It is not entirely dependent on property taxes and property values, but those elements are still factored into funding decisions.
Further complicating funding models is the advent of charter schools paired with the push for standardized testing, which Phillis cites as a perfect storm of inconvenience for students and teachers.
Phillis and Hartman both cite charter schools, as charter schools pull funding away from public education. This disproportionately affects schools who already can’t afford to lose the money.
“Some of these schools can’t afford a guidance counselor or social worker. There’s a growing drug problem in these counties, and some schools don’t have the resources to help students grapple with what they’re seeing at home,” Hartman says.Beyond the StruggleBut while the funding model may be broken, the fight for equity in education exists largely outside the classroom walls.
“Despite the challenges these districts face, when you observe a classroom and see the teachers interacting with their students, magic is happening,” Hartman says with a hopeful
No doubt it is such images that keep individuals like Hartman and Phillis motivated 25 years and counting.