The Myth of State Education Cuts

There are few public policy myths as egregious as the one that says that funding for K-12 education has been ruthlessly cut by greedy Columbus politicians.

The below chart was created using numbers from the Legislative Service Commission (LSC), the state’s non-partisan agency that is charged with drafting bills that come up before the legislature.


If you go to Table 2 at the LSC website, you will see the totals of state only spending from Fiscal Years (FY) 1975 through 2011 as well as the currently appropriated amount for FYs 12 and 13.

The storyline is straightforward.  Ohio has spent or will spend, on average, 5.5 percent more per year on K-12 education than it did the year before in terms of state dollars.  The trend line is mostly upward except for a blip down in the last two years of the Strickland years.

Also, contrary to what many critics are alleging regarding “draconian cuts” by the present Administration, the state is actually spending more of its own revenues in FYs 12 and 13 than it did in FYs 10 and 11, the last two years of the Strickland Administration.

There was a substantial influx of federal funds that had been made available through the stimulus that allowed Governor Strickland to cut back on the state share.  Clearly, those revenues are now long gone.  However, it is erroneous to say that the state has “cut” spending when state revenues going to K-12 education are due to increase by from $8.1 billion in FY11 to $8.4 billion in FY12 and to $8.7 billion in FY13.  Those are increases of 3.9 and 2.9 percent respectively.

Also, as you look at the graph, note the inflation line.  Through the mid to late 80s, spending mostly stayed in line with inflation, but a divergence emerged by the late 80s and then expanded tremendously in the late 90s.

This corresponds to the famous DeRolph case dealing with the constitutionality of Ohio’s spending on K-12 education and shows unambiguously, that the state has been shoveling more money into the system on a consistent basis since then.

The point here is not to relitigate the DeRolph case or even the constitutionality of the present system.  It is simply to point out that state spending on K-12 education in Ohio has dramatically increased.  If critics want to see more spending, they should argue that what has and is being spent is not enough, not that there have been “cuts” that everyone knew was bound to happen when the federal money spigot was turned off.

Greg R. Lawson

About Greg R. Lawson

Greg R. Lawson is the Statehouse Liaison and Policy Analyst with the Buckeye Institute
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