School district boards, administrators, and staff are accountable to students, parents, and taxpayers for providing a quality education while practicing good stewardship of taxpayer funds. Both have been a challenge. Near- and long-term anticipated budget deficits have resulted in districts asking for additional funding from resident-taxpayers and/or implementing cost reduction measures subject to the restrictions imposed by bargaining contracts.
With household finances being tight as a result of a lackluster economy (during the 2001-2014 timeframe, average resident income rose 25%, not even keeping pace with inflation at 30%), taxpayers have been reluctant to contribute more to schools, whose expenditures have risen over 47% during that period.
Has student performance improved commensurately?
While state-mandated test results lead us to believe that schools have improved in their ability to provide a quality education, the Ohio average percentile on the nationally-normed ACT test has increased by 3 points in the last 18 years, and the graduation rate has increased 6 percentage points.
These data are confirmed in the report, "State Education Trends," researched and released in March of 2014 by The CATO Institute. This study reports SAT scores and per pupil spending trends for each state. Ohio's data are provided here.
The "2015 Ohio Districts Performance and Expenditure" series of reports presented here provides a historical view of school district expenditures and student performance. They provide "pictures" of the extent to which each district has contained costs and/or has been able to justify expenditure increases by achieving commensurate performance improvements
Some districts have performed well. Others show room for improvement. These reports can serve as the starting point for conversation among board members, administrators, teachers, parents, and taxpayers for addressing district finance while maximizing student outcomes.
This 2015 study is a followup to studies from 2011, 2013, and 2014, and incorporates the latest data (as of 9/2015) from the Ohio Departments of Education and Taxation.