Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Analysts play what-if on Ohio schools




By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Several options face the state should the Ohio Supreme Court rule a third time against Ohio's school-funding system, analysts said.

        The court heard arguments in the case last month and is expected to rule this summer.

        A coalition of school districts sued Ohio in 1991, saying the state's over-reliance on property taxes created disparities between rich and poor districts. The state is spending an additional $1.4 billion on education over the next two years in an effort to satisfy the court that the system is now constitutional.

        The court could follow its example from the past two rulings and hand the problems with the system back to lawmakers, with a deadline, said Josh Hall, an education analyst for the Buckeye Institute, a free-market think tank.

        On the other hand, the court could take a more aggressive approach and set a shorter deadline than the 13 months justices gave lawmakers in May 2000. Or, the court could appoint a special master to oversee the state's efforts.

        “Things could speed up very quickly, and that could open things up for whole host of things,” Mr. Hall said. “A more aggressive approach could provide political cover for a tax increase for the Legislature.”

        Gov. Bob Taft warned Friday that a ruling against the state would require either a 33 percent increase in personal income tax rates or a 40 percent increase in the state's sales tax.

        The court also could take lawmakers out of the picture and ask a third party, such as the state school board, to craft a plan that meets the constitutional test of a thorough and efficient system, said Andy Benson, president of the New Ohio Institute think tank.

       



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