With a belated thank you to a Heritage Club meeting attendee for mentioning the State of Ohio Supreme Court ruling that school funding with real estate taxes is unconstitutional, I started to do some research on this subject.
In 1991 a group filed a lawsuit in Perry County (southeast of Columbus) against the State of Ohio for “failing to provide adequate funding to educate the state’s students”. It is known as the DeRolph v. State of Ohio. (named after Nathan DeRolph, a student in Sheridan High School).
The districts claimed that the State of Ohio failed to meet the requirements of an “efficient” educational system, as required by the Ohio Constitution of 1851. The heavy reliance upon local property taxes to fund the schools created an inequality in the education system since areas with higher property values could provide greater opportunities to their students than poorer areas.
In 1994, the Perry County Court Judge ruled that “public education is a fundamental right in the State of Ohio” and required the State to provide a more equitable means of financing the school systems. This ruling overturned a 1979 ruling that said the school financing system was acceptable.
As you can imagine, there were a lot of legal maneuvers by the Ohio legislature and the schools after that judicial activism. The case ultimately made it to the Ohio Supreme Court, and in 1997 the court ruled that the current method of funding violated the Ohio Constitution and ordered the State to “enact a constitutional school-funding system”. The problem is no one had a clue how to fix the system.
After years of ordering more State money be given to local schools, the Supreme Court “threw in the towel” and said that the legislators had given it their best and over turned their earlier rulings.
So here is our reality in Lake County: Mentor closing schools because of low enrollment and an aging population, Riverside demolishing existing buildings and building “state of the art” schools, Perry and Willoughby/Eastlake schools spending like there is no tomorrow, and seniors and those living on fixed incomes being priced out of their homes because of ever- increasing real estate taxes. Do you get the picture???
The DeRolph case focused on “equality” of education, but not on the fact that the method of funding (real estate taxes) is not sustainable.
Perhaps our educational system is becoming outdated. With the advances made on the Internet, the answer to providing quality, equal education to all Ohio children, regardless of where they live, may be on-line and in the home. With the hundreds of millions spent on Ohio education, we could provide every child with a computer and ensure adequate Internet access. We then can eliminate many of the problems that we are experiencing in the schools. The statistics show that what we are doing is not working.
What is your answer to the current education versus real estate tax dilemma?
Here is the link to the website of the law firm that handled the DeRolph versus State of Ohio case.