By Sue Kiesewetter
FOREST PARK - A dozen years after a school-funding lawsuit was filed, Ohio still has an unconstitutional and inadequate system to fund its schools, says the executive director of a group trying to change it.
And that's why the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.
"It's a long shot," admitted William L. Phillis, the coalition's director and a former Ohio assistant superintendent of public instruction.
"The (state) court has ruled the system is still unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to fix it, but there's no way for it to be enforced."
The coalition has until Aug. 10 to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for an appeal of a May ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Phillis was in Forest Park on Monday to be interviewed on Waycross Community Television about school funding and the DeRolph lawsuit by Winton Woods High School seniors Robert Lee and Jonathan Luckey. The school board was also to honor him for his work.
"He has been an outspoken critic of school funding," said Andy Anderson, Waycross' education access coordinator. "The state funding issue is so complex. This gives him and (Winton Woods superintendent Camille) Nasbe a broader audience to explain the issue."
Last week Phillis was in Oxford to speak about funding with Citizens for Fair Taxation, a group that wants less reliance on property tax to fund schools.
When the DeRolph lawsuit was filed in 1991, the legislature allocated 34.6 percent of the state budget to schools, Phillis said. It gradually rose to 39.3 percent for the school year that just ended - about the same percentage as 1973.
But under the recently adopted budget, that percentage drops to below 39 percent by 2005, Phillis said, using data from the Legislative Service Commission.
"That (downward trend) will continue unless there's outside interference," Phillis said.
The petition being prepared, Phillis said, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court if it will accept an appeal from the Ohio Supreme Court ruling that orders legislators to overhaul the system but doesn't provide for a way to enforce the ruling.
Waycross will televise Phillis' interview with Winton Woods High School students at 6:30 p.m. Thursday on Channel 4. A countywide showing on Time Warner public access will be scheduled later.
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