In a signal that he sees education as a top legislative priority, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft this month used his first State of the State Address to propose a controversial use of the state’s projected budget surplus: Spend it on the schools.
The Republican governor’s plan to spend all surplus funds in a two-year budget cycle on school construction, repairs, and technology upgrades drew immediate criticism from some lawmakers. They have been eyeing the surplus--a projected $400 million this year for a $20.1 billion state budget-- as a way to bankroll an income-tax cut.
In addition to proposing a one-time use of the surplus for school facilities, the governor also promised in the March 9 speech to honor a campaign pledge he made last year to devote $300 million a year to upgrade school buildings.
The condition of Ohio’s school facilities, considered among the worst in the nation, has been one issue among many in a protracted court battle over school finance. The case is heading back to the state supreme court, two years after the high court first declared the funding system unconstitutional (“Court Rejects Ohio Finance Plan; Revives Debate on School Funding,” March 10, 1999).
Mr. Taft, who was elected last November, also used the address to pitch his other educational priorities, including a reading proposal that would depend on 20,000 volunteers and $25 million in state grants, as well as a $10 million plan to reward schools that perform well on state tests while also raising attendance and graduation rates.
For schools that consistently perform poorly on state tests, the governor’s budget includes a $25 million plan to pay for intervention efforts.
“We must hold schools accountable for results,” Mr. Taft declared. “This means rewarding schools that improve and intervening to assist schools that need help.”
A version of this article appeared in the March 24, 1999 edition of Education Week as Taft Wants To Spend Surplus on Education