$1 billion more urged for schools

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

The State Board of Education is putting the finishing touches on a school-funding plan that members hope will get a good look by Gov. Ted Strickland as he prepares to unveil his long-awaited proposal.

The 19-member board is poised to adopt the plan at its December meeting before recommending it to the governor and legislative leaders.

The plan would establish a per-student base cost of providing an education, with additional money to meet the needs of poor youngsters, those with special needs, gifted students and those with limited English proficiency. It also calls for expanding all-day kindergarten statewide and providing special-education services for preschoolers.

Had the proposal been in place last school year, it would have boosted state aid to primary and secondary schools by nearly $1 billion.

Board leaders say the plan would reduce reliance on local tax revenue and prevent Ohio's 614 school districts from having to go to the ballot so frequently, although the board did not say where the money would come from.

"We have some ideas that we think should be in a funding system, and we hope they will take those ideas and that we may see them in a budget two years from now," said Virgil E. Brown Jr., chairman of the board's funding subcommittee.

The board's proposal comes as Strickland kicks off a second round of invitation-only education forums, this time focusing on school funding. The previous forums dealt only with reforms.

Strickland promises to unveil in early 2009 his proposal for reforming what goes on in the classroom and how schools are financed, a pledge he made on the campaign trail in 2006.

Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said the governor had no comment on the school-board plan because he hadn't analyzed it.

The governor also isn't saying whether he expects to include his school-reform proposal in his state budget, which will be introduced early next year, or as a separate legislative initiative. Strickland told educators last month that he hopes the legislature will adopt his plan but, if not, he will put it on the ballot.