Responding to the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling that his state’s school finance system is unconstitutional, Gov. George V. Voinovich is proposing a 1-cent sales-tax hike to generate more money for the public schools.
The Republican governor called last week for lawmakers to pass a joint resolution endorsing his plan by Aug. 5 in order to put the tax increase and related constitutional amendments on a November ballot.
In March, the court gave legislators one year to craft a new system for financing the public schools, which serve 1.8 million Ohio children. Local districts bear too much responsibility for education funding and need better facilities and supplies, the court found. (See Education Week, April 2, 1997.)
Mr. Voinovich envisions spending $5.8 billion on school facilities through fiscal 2007. His plan would raise the state sales tax from 5 cents to 6 cents on the dollar, generating an extra $1.1 billion a year, according to estimates by the governor’s office. The plan would also allow districts to propose additional property-tax increases on local ballots.
The leader of the group that sued the state over school funding, a coalition of 553 school districts, objected to a section of the proposed joint resolution that states that the legislature “has exclusive responsibility to determine what constitutes a thorough and efficient” education as guaranteed under the state constitution.
William L. Phillis, the executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, said such a constitutional amendment would unfairly preclude citizens from challenging the state’s school funding system in court, as his group did in 1991.
A version of this article appeared in the July 09, 1997 edition of Education Week