Hundreds of new K-12 educational facilities have been built throughout Ohio over the last two decades.
But scattered across the state are districts that the building program has bypassed, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Thousands of students are still attending classes in buildings that are outdated and have little prospect for improvement because the opportunity for acquiring state funding has lapsed.
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, initially known as the Ohio School Facilities Commission, provides districts with money to help pay for new buildings.
Since 1997, the commission has helped districts build hundreds of new buildings across Ohio with funding that is based on a strict, tax-valuation formula set in law.
The River View district, 80 miles east of Columbus, is one of 40 districts that have been unable to win voter approval of construction projects that would have been paid for in part by state funds.
Based on the state's formula for allocating construction funding, River View is considered wealth—it has 376 square miles of land and a coal-burning power plant within its borders.
In reality, School Superintendent Dalton Summers says, his district is not so well off. State figures show that more than 54 percent of River View students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, compared with a statewide average of about 40 percent.
“Financially, we’re in a worst-case scenario,” Summers says.
The district was unable to win voter approval within 13 months of the state’s funding offer, so by rule, the offer expired, and River View became a “lapsed” district.
Commission spokesman Rick Savors acknowledges that some districts have financial conditions that aren't reflected in the commission’s funding formula.
“It’s been an issue since day one,” he says. “There’s the state law that says this is the procedure we have to follow.”
The commission was formed in the wake of a Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling that the state’s method for funding public education was unconstitutional.
Since its formation, the commission has used a formula to decide when districts can be offered state funding to build new facilities, as well as the percentage of total cost the state will pay. Both are decided by the district’s “three-year average valuation,” which is the total taxable value of the district divided by the number of students.
The formula largely has been a success: More than 1,100 new buildings have been built in some of Ohio’s most impoverished districts with funding from the commission.
In a sprawling district such as River View, however, with a lot of land and few students, the district appears wealthier and in less need than it really is.