Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Kids lobby lawmaker: We need database

Fee for online encyclopedia deleted from proposed budget

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Students from Winton Montessori School made their voices heard to state Rep. Wayne Coates, a Democrat from Forest Park, Monday. Proposed state budget cuts could eliminate funding for their on-line encyclopedia.

        The encyclopedia and other databases help to equalize education in this preschool to sixth-grade school, where 80 percent of students participate in the free or reduced lunch program, said technologist and librarian Dee Cohen.

        The databases, part of an information network for Ohio schools called INFOhio, are available to every public and private school in the state.

        “We want them to add more databases, not take them away,” Ms. Cohen said.

        About $1.7 million - which paid the licensing fees for the electronic resources for

        all Ohio schools' access — is not included in the proposed executive budget for fiscal years 2002-03, according to Betty Wolford, INFOhio consultant for the Hamilton-Clermont Cooperative Association.

        The electronic resources now cost about 28 cents per student, according to INFOhio. Without state funding for a collective contract for all schools, the resources would cost districts $18.10 per student.

        Students use the databases every day for research, Ms. Cohen said. They access 217 magazines and newspapers and an American biography resource.

        Mr. Coates came to hear the students' concerns after receiving about 100 letters from teachers and students, Ms. Cohen said. The students handed the legislator dozens of additional letters Monday and tossed some hard-hitting questions his way.

        “If you take INFOhio away, what other things would you have for us to look up history and things like that?” asked 10-year-old Rhulon Hart.

        Mr. Coates said the alternatives to the databases are grim, so he'll try to lobby Gov. Bob Taft.

        “This is the only outreach to the world these children have,” he said.


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