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Opt In Funding

School funding is a big problem in Ohio.  For as long as I can remember there has been a system that relied on the passage of levies district by district every year or two.  Those districts that regularly pass levies have money, and those that don’t pass levies struggle.  One problem with this system is that even though there may be say 5,000 people who would be willing to pay a little more, if 5001 people would not be willing to pay  the result is there is no new money for the schools.  It is an all or nothing system.  I understand the need to have consistency across a school district for long term budgeting and planning purposes, but why do we have a system that ignores the willingness of a large percentage of people to provide financial support?

moneyFor short term needs, why can’t people “opt-in” to fund schools regardless of the opinion of the majority of voters?  A voluntary levy.  After all if you voted that you would be willing to pay a little more, why wouldn’t you then do so?  This would be particularly interesting if it were somehow tax deductible as well – thus there would be some economic benefit to this as well as an altruistic one.  Not sure how you would structure this, and I am pretty sure that it violates some part of the state constitution, but I will put it out there anyway.  Want to save 2 teacher’s jobs?  Opt-in.  Want to save sports?  Opt-in.  Want your schools to have music and art this year? Opt-in.

You could have the traditional all or nothing vote scheduled just like it is now.  Then, in the event that it does not pass, those who elect to do so could move forward as if it actually passed.  Do it through facebook, as a payroll deduction, via a quarterly check, or as part of the annual tax process – whatever.  Surely this would be better than turning our kids into door to door salespeople peddling magazines, candy, candles, wrapping paper, and other un-needed goods which are bought mostly out of obligation and guilt to raise more money for schools.  Furthermore, you could reach out to businesses, alumi, grandparents, relatives, friends, and others outside of the district and ask them to opt in too.

Would this fix the big systemic problems of school funding?  Nope.  Would it raise needed capital for schools that are struggling to survive?  It might.  Why not try?  Opt-in.