Voinovich Says It's Time To Pass School Finance Reform
It's high time for Ohio lawmakers to pass a new school aid plan and expand early-childhood initiatives, Gov. George V. Voinovich declared in his State of the State Address last week.
In a speech laced with reflections on his two terms as governor, Mr. Voinovich challenged lawmakers to overcome their recent, failed reform efforts to pass a plan. "Let's get it done," he said.
The Ohio Supreme Court gave lawmakers until March 24 to rewrite the school aid formula, which it ruled unconstitutional last March. ("School Finance Plan Fails by 2 Votes in Ohio," Feb. 11, 1998.)
Mr. Voinovich, a Republican, also proposed creating a computer-based network of news, teacher training materials, and other information that would be available to 1,500 preschool classrooms and day-care centers.
"All of these efforts to help every Ohio child start school ready to learn remind us of our heavy responsibility to also make sure our schools are the best they can be," he said Feb. 10.
And Mr. Voinovich would set aside $300 million over the next two fiscal years for school maintenance and construction. In addition, he would target surplus state funds through 2000 for school facilities.
"This will result in hundreds of millions more for classroom repair and construction," he said.
If the plan is approved, the state will have committed more than $1.5 billion to school construction and repairs since 1993, he said.
Schafer Warns LawmakersTo Brace for 'New Storms'
Gov. Edward T. Schafer began his recent State of the State Address, which he delivered even though the legislature doesn't meet this year, by thanking individuals, particularly young people, who took part in efforts to protect towns from last year's damaging floods.
"Make no mistake about it, our students led the sandbagging brigades," he said. "They were eager to help and displayed intense community spirit and activism."
The state, however, now faces new challenges, "new storms if you will," the Republican governor said on Jan. 22. He put declining school enrollments at the top of the list. "By the year 2010, our schools are expected to be teaching 17,000 fewer students than they do today," he said. "That's a decrease of 14 percent statewide."
Local school boards, administrators, teachers, parents, and students, Mr. Schafer said, must begin to draft "smart plans" for addressing the changes.
The primary goal should not be to protect school districts, he said.
But district consolidation is not the only answer, he added. Schools can also continue to provide instructional programs through distance learning.
The governor also asked every district in the state to prepare a report that includes population trends, the condition of school buildings, and projected financial resources.
The reports are due at the end of the year and will be used to draw up a plan for the structure of the state's K-12 system.
Continue on Reform Path, Geringer Urges Legislature
Gov. Jim Geringer singled out education as a priority for Wyoming and a critical issue for this year's legislative session in his State of State Address.
"We have the task of providing in this session for the immediate needs of our kids, while laying the groundwork for their future," the governor told lawmakers Feb. 9.
Mr. Geringer, a Republican, highlighted the legislature's work to set academic standards and raise accountability in the state during last year's special session. He urged lawmakers not to abandon their commitment to tougher standards, enhanced basic education, local control, and expanded use of technology in schools. Lawmakers are expected to tackle those issues this month.
The governor requested $83 million for the next two fiscal years, or $166 million for the biennium, in additional funding for K-12 public education. His budget request also includes $24 million for technology funding and $166 million for K-12 education overall in fiscal 1999. The fiscal 1998 K-12 budget is $124.1 million.
Mr. Geringer also addressed the legislature's efforts to fulfill the state supreme court's order to demonstrate funding equity in Wyoming schools. In 1995, the court found that the finance system was unconstitutional because of funding disparities between districts.
"The work done to date by the legislature has met the criteria set down by the court," Mr. Geringer said. "We need to proceed with an attitude of cooperation and set aside litigation."
--ADRIENNE D. COLES