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Caution And Disappointment Over Ohio School Funding

Updated: 2/22/2012 5:30 P.M.

Still unhappy.

That sums up the feelings of most Ohio superintendents about Governor John Kasich's education budget.

Senator Lou Gentile met with several of them Friday in Marietta.

Of Washington County's districts, only Marietta and Belpre City Schools received funding increases in the governor's plan.

He says its an issue he and his fellow lawmakers plan to address.

"I think there is a bipartisan concern over what's been released; both Democrats and Republicans have a lot of concerns about this education budget," Gentile said Friday. "In the coming months, we're going to do everything we can to make sure our voices are heard in Columbus."

Gentile says the issue is one of fairness in funding Ohio schools, something that's still an issue more than 15 years after the state supreme court declared the state's school funding system unconstitutional.

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From the beginning, Belpre School Superintendent Tony Dunn has been cautiously optimistic about the proposals governor John Kasich made a week ago in Columbus.

Belpre is getting a funding increase, after it's seen its state money decline in recent years. but he still wants to see what the state legislature does with the governor's plan.

"In 2008, we had a similar incident where Governor Strickland said we were going to receive $500,000 more than we were going to receive in the previous year," Dunn said Thursday. "That was reported to the public, and when the final numbers came out, we didn't receive any more money."

Both Dunn and Wolf Creek Superintendent Bob Caldwell attended the governor's presentation in Columbus last week. Caldwell admits that, immediately after he heard the governor speak about it, he was very pleased with the proposal.

Wolf Creek is not getting an increase, and Caldwell is O.K. with that. but he's disappointed several of Ohio's less-wealthy districts aren't getting a funding boost.

"We built these new schools with money in the form of tax bonds, and now, we're not giving these schools enough increase in money to even maintain these new schools we have built. I think that's sad, it's not ' Achievement Everywhere' (a reference to the title Kasich has given the plan)."

Caldwell notes several of those schools were plaintiffs in the 1990's school funding lawsuit, which led the state supreme court to rule the Buckeye State's funding system unconstitutional. Wolf Creek a decade ago made major renovations, all funded by a voter-passed bond issue. other districts, including frontier in Washington County, made improvements mostly financed by the state.

"This is supposed to be about educating Ohio's school children," Caldwell told The News Center Thursday, "and that's what I want to represent in this matter, is all Ohio school children."

With the exception of Marietta and Belpre, none of Washington County's districts are due for state funding increases in fiscal year 2015.


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