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Ohio Governor Seeks More Money To Equalize Funds Between Districts

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Gov. George V. Voinovich of Ohio has called on state lawmakers to find new revenues for schools and to equalize funding between districts.

The biggest potential windfall for schools would be the reinstatement of a soft-drink tax. Ohio voters last November repealed a penny-a-can levy. But Mr. Voinovich in his State of the State address on Jan. 26 said that he will seek a constitutional amendment to put the tax back on the books and dedicate an estimated $500 million over the next decade to schools.

Governor Voinovich also proposed eliminating a tax exemption on residential property worth more than $200,000, a move that would generate $33 million for schools.

The Republican Governor, who won re-election in November, said his biennial budget would also include a new "equity factor" in the state's school-funding formula that would send most new school money to more than 260 districts with low property values. The new formula also would shift $32.5 million to poor districts that now goes to schools in the state's wealthiest areas.

The changes would replace the state's equity fund, which has funneled $180 million to poor districts since its creation four years ago. A school-finance suit against the state over funding inequities is scheduled to be heard by the state supreme court this spring.

In his speech, Governor Voinovich said he will also:

  • Propose a constitutional amendment for the issue of a $1 billion bond for school construction and repairs;
  • Provide funding for 80 percent of eligible children to participate in Head Start, preschool special education, and public preschool programs; and
  • Reward teachers who win certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards with a $2,500 pay raise.

--Drew Lindsay

HAWAII

Budget Crisis May CurbSchool Aid, Cayetano Warns

Hawaii's new Governor is pledging to conduct a thorough review of all state agencies in an effort to streamline the bureaucracy and reap savings.

Just days before Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano's Jan. 23 State of the State speech, analysts discovered that the state will face a deficit of at least $250 million over the next two fiscal years. The deficit was originally estimated to be $150 million, and the Democratic Governor attributed the error to a series of miscalculations.

Mr. Cayetano called in his speech for $200 million in cuts by July 1997, including $40 million in the current fiscal year. He pledged to seek cuts in administrative costs before resorting to program cuts. Hawaii operates on a biannual budget.

The Governor had stressed education, especially the need to improve early-childhood education, throughout his campaign. In his speech he said that education is still a high priority, but that "given the fiscal crisis we find ourselves in, it is inappropriate for me to propose new education initiatives such as early-childhood education which require new revenue" until the situation improves.

To that end, the Governor said he will appoint a task force, which he will chair, to review every state agency--including the nation's only statewide school district--with an eye toward elimination or consolidation in administration.

Mr. Cayetano also proposed streamlining the process for building or repairing new schools. Such an effort would not require legislative approval, a spokeswoman for the Governor said.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

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