Funding Vocational Education in Ohio: Results of a National Survey of State Practices
Education policymakers generally accept that vocational education is more expensive to provide than other forms of instruction, although the actual magnitude of this added expense has yet to be conclusively documented. To ensure that all students in Ohio have access to quality vocational instruction, Ohio has long provided supplemental financial support to public school districts for vocational education. Historically, this additional funding was allocated on a unit-cost basis, with allocation size varying by vocational program area: districts employing a full-time teacher to instruct a class of at least 12 students were eligible for state compensation.
In March 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court, in its DeRolph I decision, ruled Ohio’s public school finance system unconstitutional, in part because state funding for vocational education failed to account for wealth differentials across districts. In response to this ruling, the Ohio General Assembly, in consultation with national finance experts and Ohio Department of Education (ODE) staff, revised its vocational funding policies, eliminating unit-based funding in favor of a weighted, per-pupil formula that controlled for district wealth. Ohio’s current vocational funding mechanism, which builds off this initial work, relies on student assigned funding weights: each full-time-equivalent (FTE) student enrolled in selected vocational programs generates supplemental resources to account for the higher costs associated with vocational instruction.