Ohio lacks extra revenue to invest into education, schools

KENT, Ohio – The good news: State financial results for fiscal year 2006 have been reported, and 28 states ended with higher revenue than projected. Eleven of these states will use this excess money to invest more into higher education.

The bad news?

Ohio was not one of these states.

Fiscal year statistics from an Aug. 15 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures said states’ 2006 revenues, expected to increase by 2.7 percent, actually closed at 7.7 percent higher than last year.

“Ohio, as a state, has come out of the recession more slowly than other states,” said Jamie Abel, assistant director of communications and spokesperson for the Ohio Board of Regents. “And we haven’t had as much revenue coming out of the recession as [other states] have.”

Abel said Ohio lawmakers look at four major categories when planning the state budget: K-12 facilities and funding, controlling the growth of Medicaid, funding corrections facilities as prison populations increase and, finally, funding higher education.

Because Ohio works on a biennial budget, which means the state budget is planned two years in advance rather than annually, the next budget will not be written into law until next June, Abel said.

“Ohio has been less quick to come around to the point of understanding the urgency of education,” Abel said, calling higher education “a balancing tool for the budget.”

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, said it is likely the next state budget will see an increase in funding for higher education, although he said he does not expect it to be much.

“Unfortunately, neither of the gubernatorial candidates has identified higher education as a key to the future success of the state,” Creamer said. “And while funding may improve modestly, I don’t think the damage of the last few years will even be partially reversed.”

Abel said although Ohio has historically been a state heavily supported by the agricultural and manufacturing industries, state officials have been slow to recognize how much college education factors into these industries. He cited technological advances in both industries as the primary reason the need for education in Ohio has become more urgent.

“It’s not just an individual thing,” Abel said. “Individuals understand it. It’s very much a cultural thing going back two, three generations.”