Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Court urges changes in school rebuilding

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Ohio has made significant progress in improving its school buildings but should consider a new way of paying for school construction, the Ohio Supreme Court said in its latest school-funding ruling.

        The court didn't order a change in the rebuilding program. In a previous school-funding decision, the court had ruled that the state wasn't spending enough to repair older and decaying school buildings.

        The unmet construction needs of schools “are enormous and the time in which it is feasible to meet them is lengthy,” Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote last week. “We urge the General Assembly to review and consider alternative means of funding school buildings and related facilities.”

        Justice Andy Douglas, in a concurring opinion, urged Gov. Bob Taft and lawmakers to “look at other ways and means to resolve the facilities problems” statewide.

        The court ruled 4-3 Thursday that to make its school-funding system constitution, the state must increase basic state aid for students and speed up a new funding program for poor districts.

        Randall Fischer, in charge of spending billions on new and renovated schools, said he's not sure what more the state could do on school construction.

        “I don't know how we can go that much faster short of additional appropriations,” said Mr. Fischer, executive director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

        The commission, which along with local schools spent almost $1 billion on school construction last year, plans to spend $23 billion over 12 years.


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