Alder serves as site for governors watch party

Teachers, school administrators and community members, all with concerns about the future of Ohio’s education system, gathered Nov. 20 at Jonathan Alder High School to listen to Gov. Ted Strickland hold a conversation about school funding.

Strickland was not present; he, and the conversation, were in Columbus, and the people at Jonathan Alder were at a “watch party,” viewing the conversation via video transmitted over the Internet. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher was present, though, to introduce Strickland virtually and direct discussion afterwards.

During the “conversation,” Strickland emphasized the importance of education to Ohio.
“Ohio’s prosperity depends on education… We need a sustainable method to fund our schools,” he said, adding that Ohio’s school funding system is complicated, poorly designed and rife with exceptions and inconsistencies.

As an example, Strickland explained that the amount of tax collected from property owners doesn’t go up as property values increase, unless the school system is operating at a minimum of 20 mills. If property values rise, either from a growing real estate market or from devaluation of the dollar due to inflation, the state’s contribution to a school district decreases, under the assumption that the district is getting more money from property tax.

Strickland said a school system opera-ting with a property tax above 20 mills wouldn’t benefit from increased property values, but they would still receive less money from the state. The effect, he said, is that “schools have to go to ballot every two years just to keep up with inflation.”

When Strickland wrapped up his presentation, Fisher asked the individuals at Jonathan Alder’s watch party to form groups to discuss ideas for improving the school funding system.

“They have to fund what they have,” said Doug Carpenter, Jonathan Alder superintendent. “We can’t keep adding programs.”

Sean Hughes, executive director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said the state’s contribution shouldn’t be lowered when third parties donate money to a school system.

“We need to quit penalizing schools for [receiving corporate donations] and side benefits,” he said.

William L. Phillis, executive director of the Coalition for Equity and Adequacy in School Funding, said, “We have to identify what it is we are going to provide for kids … If we don’t, in 30 years, people will be sitting around, talking about the same issues.”

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