Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Board seeks $3.2B more for schools

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The state school board recommended Tuesday that Ohio spend $3.2 billion more on schools in the next two-year budget, following two years of record spending for primary and secondary education.

The Board of Education, with some dissension, sent to Gov. Bob Taft's office a proposal that the state spend $8.72 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1 and another $9.69 billion the following year.

The state is spending about $15.2 billion on schools over this school year and last. If re-elected, Mr. Taft will begin building a new two-year state budget in the spring.

State Schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman recommended the additional funding last month. The board voted 12-3 with two members, Deborah Owens Fink of Richfield and James Turner of Cincinnati, abstaining.

Joe Roman, a board member from Fairview Park who voted against the plan, said $2 billion more over the two years would be more realistic.

"It's too big. The money's not there," he said.

David Varda, the department's associate superintendent for school finance, said the department believes the additional money is needed to allow students to continue to excel academically.

He said the recommendation tries to address the most recent Ohio Supreme Court decision on the state's system of education funding.

That September 2001 ruling said that the system would be constitutional if Ohio spent more money on schools.

The court, which didn't say how much money would satisfy it, agreed to reconsider its ruling after one estimate hit $1.2 billion annually, but has not issued a new decision.

Much of the new money would be used to raise the basic aid amount the state pays each district.

Under the plan, districts would receive $5,278 per student in 2004, or $190 more per student than under current law. They would receive $5,606 in the following year beginning July 1, 2004, or $376 more than current law requires.

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Board seeks $3.2B more for schools