Teacher Lucy Yates Seall in her elementary school classroom, ca. 1930-1949. Her students are displaying art projects and puppets.
During the Great Depression, public schools in Ohio faced a financial crisis. Most schools received their funding through property taxes. Many Ohioans failed to pay their taxes because of the difficult economic times. As a result of people's failure to pay their taxes, schools had less money to pay educational expenses. Exacerbating the situation, Ohio voters limited taxes on real estate to ten mills, further reducing the funds available to public schools.
To prevent the financial collapse of the public school system in Ohio, the state legislature implemented the School Foundation Program Law in 1935. This law guaranteed every school that had at least 180 students $22.50 for each kindergarten student, forty-five dollars for each elementary school pupil, and $67.50 for each high school student. If these schools offered part-time or evening classes, the schools were to receive forty-six dollars for each of these students. Schools with less than 180 students were guaranteed more money per student than the schools with more than 180 students. One-room schoolhouses would receive $1150.00, while two-room schools would receive $2400.00. The legislature required each school district to enact a property tax of at least three mills to try and meet at least thirty-two percent of the funding requirements for each student. The state was to provide the remaining sixty-eight percent from its own funds, primarily from the State Sales Tax of 1935. If a school could not meet its thirty-two percent requirement, the state government, at the discretion of director of education, would provide additional funding.
The School Foundation Program Law greatly improved education in Ohio. The state legislature now guaranteed school districts adequate funds to educate students, especially during the difficult financial times of the Great Depression. Since 1935, the School Foundation Program Law has undergone tremendous change, resulting in the rise of numerous critics of how schools are funded in Ohio.