Thursday, March 22, 2001

Taft, legislators push for school fund deal

Discussions seek bipartisan proposal to satisfy court

By Travis James Tritten
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — With the collapse of a $3.2 billion funding plan and a summer deadline looming, Ohio Republican leaders on Wednesday asked Democrats to help them find a solution to the state's school funding dilemma.

        Gov. Bob Taft met with House and Senate leaders from both parties Wednesday morning to discuss a unified approach.

        The parties have less than three months to find a school funding plan that satisfies an Ohio Supreme Court order to narrow the funding gaps between rich and poor schools.

        With strong opposition to a tax increase from both sides and Republicans' plans to use video lottery terminals for funding discarded, both parties must find a source of money to improve the state's schools.

        One Democratic proposal floated by Sen. Dan Brady, D-Cleveland, would pool commercial and industrial property taxes to provide an overall funding increase of $1.8 billion. The plan would distribute tax money from businesses equally to schools across the state.

        Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Delhi Township, said he supports a school funding system that would redistribute state property tax money to schools. “The idea of pooling taxes is one that should be looked at very closely,” Mr. Driehaus said.

        Although Mr. Taft has said property tax pooling is an option, Senate President Richard Finan, R-Evendale, criticized such funding on Wednesday.

        “I think pooling would be a very difficult political move in this general assembly,” Mr. Finan said.

        Funding from pooling property tax is often opposed by large school districts, which fear losing money to smaller districts, he said.

        After a $3.2 billion school-funding proposal floated by House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, was rejected by Republican leaders as too expensive, lawmakers acknowledge they are struggling to craft a new plan.

        “There seems to be a plan du jour,” Mr. Driehaus said.


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