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School fund hike comes with wraps attached

LISBON — The good news is that for the first time in recent memory every local school district will be receiving additional funding under the latest two-year state budget.

The catch is the money can only be spent on so-called wrap-around services and not for general operations.

The student “wellness and success” plan, as these wrap-around services are called, is a program for schools to provide social services to struggling students in need of this assistance. This includes things such as food, medical and mental health care, additional tutoring, family support services and mentoring. The theory is providing these services will help students struggling in school and facing other challenges at home perform better academically.

Many schools, if not all, already provide some form of these services, and this is where those districts could benefit from the additional state funding. Whatever a district is spending now on these services can be replaced with the new wrap-around state funds, freeing up that local money to be spent elsewhere by the school board, according to Jennifer Hogue, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association.

For example, if the hypothetical Smith school district is already spending $200,000 a year on social services for students and receives $500,000 in state wrap-around funds, it has the option of using that $200,000 for other purposes.

Lisbon Superintendent Joseph Siefke said he does not know if this will free up money for his district because they are still waiting to learn more details from the state about what specific services they can and cannot provide with the wrap-around funds.

“It will depend on what they classify as (wrap-around) services,” he said.

As mentioned above, all of the 11 school districts in the county receive wrap-around funding over the next two years, with the estimated combined amounts ranging from $1.24 million for East Liverpool to $203,563 for Columbiana. This is based on the number of students and the household poverty level within the district.

The only school district receiving additional state funding that can be spent for general operations is East Liverpool, which will receive a combined $111,973 over the next two school years.

The following is a list of the county districts and how much in wrap-around funds they are estimated to receive in the next two years:

Beaver Local: $1,078,621

Columbiana: $203,563

Crestview Local: $792,238

East Liverpool: $1,241,358

East Palestine: $904,660

Leetonia: $442,994

Lisbon: $882,281

Salem: $1,232,966

Southern Local: $457,931

United Local: $755,634

Wellsville: $411,316

Siefke said his figures may be old but they show Lisbon receiving less than what was reported to him by the Journal. When asked if he would have preferred for the additional funding to come with no strings attached, Siefke said, “Any extra money the state is willing to allocate is appreciated and will help, especially when it comes to the kids.”

He expects his school board will be able to find uses for the wrap-around funds. “We’ve had already been talking about the how we can spend our own money on career counseling or for after-school programs that we see as a need in the community,” Siefke said.

Meanwhile, the state legislature and the administration of Gov. Mike DeWine continue to work on overhauling the formula for providing how state funds are allocated among local public schools. These are funds that can be spent on general operations and make up a large part of every district’s budget. The plan has already been passed by the Ohio House and sent to the Senate for its review and proposed changes.

tgiambroni@mojonews.com

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