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WCSD Treasurer/CFO testifies before Ohio Senate leaders on House Bill 33

WCSD Treasurer/CFO testifies before Ohio Senate leaders on House Bill 33

Westerville City Schools Treasurer/CFO Nicole Marshall presented testimony before the Ohio Senate Education Committee on May 10 on House Bill 33, the state’s budget bill for fiscal years 2024 and 2025.

The bill includes proposals to expand eligibility for the state’s EdChoice scholarship program and continue implementation of the Fair School Funding Plan — both of which were the focus of Marshall’s testimony.

EdChoice is a state-sponsored initiative that provides money to private schools for a student to attend the private school instead of the public school system serving their community. Eligibility for a voucher can be either income-based or based upon state report card results for the child’s public school. 

Under the House-passed version of H.B. 33, the proposed expansion of the voucher program would increase income eligibility from 250% to 450% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. 

Marshall’s testimony highlighted how school districts are stewards of taxpayer dollars and are subject to multiple measures of accountability and transparency, including annual audits, annual financial forecasting and reporting, open meetings and public records laws, Education Management Information System reporting, the Uniform School Accounting System, ethics rules and financial disclosure. A portion of Marshall’s testimony follows:

“Private schools are not subject to the same compliance requirements and they have no oversight in how taxpayer dollars are spent. For this reason alone, they should not be funded with taxpayer money.”

Last month, Marshall and the WCSD Treasurer’s Office were recognized by the State of Ohio with the Auditor’s Award with Distinction following a clean audit for fiscal year 2022 with no findings or citations. It marks the 11th consecutive year the district has earned this award. The district is among an elite group of public entities as the auditor's office conducts approximately 6,000 audits annually and fewer than 4% of them qualify for this award.

Instead of diverting public funds to private schools, Marshall said in her address to lawmakers that the legislature should fully fund its public schools and continue with the Fair School Funding Plan with its updated inputs for FY2022. The plan features a school funding formula that would reduce the state’s overreliance on local taxpayers to pay for public education and provide a more equitable state model for funding schools.

Among those in the Senate Education Committee who heard Marshall’s testimony and represent areas of Westerville City Schools: State Senator Andrew Brenner (R-District 19), who serves as the committee chair, and State Senator Michelle Reynolds (R-District 3). State Senator William Demora (D-District 25) does not serve on the committee but also represents areas of the school district.

Brenner and Demora recently toured classrooms across the three high schools to see how the district is building a talent pipeline to in-demand careers with its pathway programs — and how important school funding in the future is to maintain this level of service.  

Even with the phase-in of the Fair School Funding Plan, the Westerville City Schools District continues to be underfunded, Marshall said.

“When looking at all of the accountability measures in place for public schools, the proposal to continue expanding school vouchers while knowingly underfunding public schools throughout Ohio is not in the best interest of this state,” she said in her testimony.

Katie Johnson, deputy executive director for the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, lauded Marshall for her testimony and how she sets the “gold standard” for the profession.

“Nicole’s ability to connect with others, and her way of conveying challenging concepts in an understandable and digestible way, make her a natural leader,” Johnson said. “We are so lucky to have her leadership and voice as we continue to advocate for adequate and equitable funding in Ohio.”

To read Marshall’s full testimony, click here.

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