Sunday, March 19, 2000

Ohio still rated low in repairing schools

But state says much has changed since '97

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — While the Ohio Supreme Court considers whether state leaders have complied with the order to fix school funding, a new federal report shows Ohio doesn't spend enough on fixing its public schools.

        Ohio, which in 1996 was ranked worst in the country for its public school facilities, ranks poorly again in a new U.S. General Accounting Office report.

        The latest study shows that Ohio's efforts to fix its school buildings from 1990-97 were far below the national average.

        The report says Ohio's construction spending from both state and local funds averaged only $274 per pupil for the period placing Ohio 11th from the bottom and far below the national average of $473 per pupil.

        Virtually all of the construction money for Ohio schools came from local districts. Ohio was one of 15 states that provided little or no state help for school construction during the eight years, the report said.

        Ohio's school buildings have been rated among the nation's worst.

        The report does not include the money the state has spent on renovations and construction since the 1997 Ohio Supreme Court decision that said the state has inadequately funded public schools.

        “Governor (Bob) Taft has dramatically increased money for school construction and has proposed spending approximately $10 billion over the next 12 years to fix every school building in every dis trict serving every student,” said Scott Milburn, spokesman for the governor.

        Finding money for school-construction projects generally is left up to local school districts, although state governments have taken on a greater role in recent years. The federal government has provided limited money for construction, but President Clinton is pushing Congress to put more federal money into renovating deteriorating school buildings.

        Randall A. Fischer, executive director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, says much has changed since 1997.

        At that point, the total cost for fixing all school facilities was estimated at $16.5 billion.

        “We have put in place a process that we feel pushes the dollars out the door as fast as possible,” Mr. Fischer said.

        William Phillis, director of the school coalition that won the ruling, said that even with the anticipated spending, the effort is inadequate.

        “The backlog is so monumental that it is going to take more than an incremental effort to catch up,” Mr. Phillis said.


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