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Published: Wednesday, 10/16/2002

$1B-a-year boost asked for schools


COLUMBUS - Properly funding education in Ohio would take an additional $1 billion each year - the annual proposed increase in the state Department of Education's biennial budget request that was approved yesterday by the state Board of Education.

“I equate this to the research and development budget of the state along with higher education,” said board member Carl Wick.

The 19-member board voted to approve the proposal from Susan Tave Zelman, superintendent of public instruction. It will be sent to the Legislature for consideration.

Dr. Zelman proposed increasing the per-pupil allocation from its current $4,949 to $5,606 in fiscal year 2005, boosting spending on teacher recruitment and retention from $7.5 million to $25.6 million, and spending about $17.7 million during the next two fiscal years developing curriculum models for new academic standards.

Last year, the board adopted standards for mathematics and language arts that will help districts develop curricula that will include material on Ohio's proficiency - and eventually assessment - tests. Next year, the board will create and adopt standards for technology and arts education.

The board members also voted on their intention to adopt at their December meeting social studies and science standards, which include the potential of discussion about challenges to evolutionary theory. A public hearing in November will be the final chance for public comment.

The science standards mandate that students be able to describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. Local districts could decide how to address religiously based challenges to the scientific theory.

Other spending increases in yesterday's budget proposal include literacy improvement, professional development, and student testing. In total, the proposed increases would raise the department's current $7.7 billion annual budget to $9.7 billion by fiscal year 2005.

Member Michael Cochran voted against the proposal. “To ask for increases of almost 13 percent the first year and more than 11 percent in the second year in this economic climate is what makes us look irresponsible and be irrelevant,” he said. “We want to fully fund education and we want to devise a plan in the budget so we aren't shortchanging our children and the districts.”

Other board members disagreed. “I don't feel this is an irresponsible budget,” Virginia Jacobs said. “I think it's a budget that has been carefully thought out. We believe we can improve education with this kind of budget.”

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