A $3,500 membership isn't a large cost to most school districts.

A $3,500 membership isn't a large cost to most school districts.

But some say belonging to the Alliance for High Quality Education, formerly the Alliance for Adequate School Funding, has helped retain funding.

More than 60 districts throughout the state are members of the alliance and most are characterized as high-performing and high-wealth.

Jim Betts, who has been with the alliance since its 1991 start, said most members are in major metropolitan areas.

In central Ohio, Dublin, Gahanna-Jefferson, Grandview Heights, Granville, Hilliard, New Albany-Plain Local, Upper Arlington, Westerville and the Worthington school districts are members, he said.

"Among other things, most alliance members are high-performing and high-wealth districts," Betts said.

"With the way money is distributed in the state, the higher wealth districts have issues all their own," Betts said.

"We promote high performance and also look out for specific issues created for socio-economic and property-wealthy districts."

The alliance was started in 1991 shortly after the DeRolph case that ruled Ohio's method of school funding was unconstitutional.

"The alliance was not part of the coalition that brought the lawsuit and one of the reasons was that at the time, talk within the legislature of distributing money was money generated by levies in higher-wealth district would go to other districts," Betts said.

"If that were the case, those districts would never have passed a levy if those residents knew their money would be going to different districts."

Rather, the alliance brought in an expert that recommended a higher per pupil allotment from the state was needed, Betts said.

When tangible-personal-property taxes from the state were in danger four years ago, the alliance lobbied to keep the funds flowing to the schools, said David Axner, Dublin City School District superintendent.

Although tangible-personal-property tax funds have since begun a phase out, Axner said the work of the alliance helped the district "hold onto a majority of the funds.

"The alliance played a role in saving money for districts," he said.

The Dublin district was a member of the alliance before Axner came to lead it five years ago. Axner also worked with the group as superintendent of Chagrin Falls Schools.

"As a member district, we don't want to take money away from urban districts," Axner said. "We just want to hold onto what we have."

For Grandview Heights City Schools, the membership is about being heard.

"When you look at Grandview Heights, it's the smallest district in Franklin County, so becoming a part of a larger organization of similar districts makes the impact of our concerns heard by more folks," said Superintendent Ed O'Reilly.

"That's the No. 1 reason you belong to a group like this: to have a great voice in the state of Ohio."

Grandview Heights has been a member of the alliance for five years and O'Reilly said the group could be important to help ensure fair and adequate school funding in the future.

"The school funding solution requires a more global view. Although I look at everything from the standpoint of Grandview Heights, it's good for me to understand the issues of schools throughout the state as we look at the funding solution," he said.

"Being part of that group helps me understand what's going on in the state."

Concerns for the group do not lie only with alliance members, Betts said, but for education in general.

"I think that while they have interest in trying to protect members, the great thing about the group overall is we're always trying to make high-quality education available to everybody," he said.

"When the first budget proposal in 2009 was made public, it was obvious the formula adopted would benefit higher wealth districts disproportionally."

The alliance asked for changes to make funding more fair in the budget and did so again in 2011 when the proposed budget "disproportionally punished higher wealth districts," Betts said.

"We obviously work with other educational organizations in trying to assess the impact (of state budgets) and determine the best way to interact with the general assembly and see the policies they adopt are not too egregious," he said.