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Published: Friday, 1/30/2009

Strickland denies U.S. will fund school plan

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS The budget that Gov. Ted Strickland will propose Monday will rely heavily on one-time federal help, but the governor insisted yesterday that those funds aren t underwriting his education agenda.

Republicans have questioned how Mr. Strickland can pump $925 million more over the next two years into K-12 schools, expand health-care coverage, and hold the line on college tuition while also delivering on his promise not to raise or impose new taxes.

The evidence-based model that we have presented as our plan for reforming and transforming education in Ohio is not contingent upon us continuing to receive infusions of federal stimulus money, Mr. Strickland said.

I believe that we have crafted a path forward that is credible and will be explained in the context of our complete budget, the governor said.

The two-year budget he will propose would draw down $3.4 billion in federal funds from President Obama s $819 billion economic stimulus package before Congress.

While some one-time money may be necessary, [Mr. Strickland s] proposal will create a huge structural imbalance in the state government and set the table for massive tax increases should he be re-elected to a second term, state Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R., Cuyahoga Falls) said.

In his State of the State address Wednesday, Mr. Strickland proposed gradually expanding the length of the school year from 180 days to 200 days, lengthening the school day, mandating all-day kindergarten, and replacing the controversial Ohio Graduation Test with the ACT college assessment exam.

He also would decrease the minimum number of property tax mills that the state school funding formula expects local districts to levy from 23 to 20 mills with the state assuming the difference.

When all the changes are implemented over time, he predicted the state s share of a public education will increase to 59 percent.

The governor has taken his education message on the road, visiting schools in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dayton yesterday.

His road show will bring him to Toledo Public Schools Grove Patterson Academy on Monday, using it as an example of a school that already has an extended school year.

Although he has promised to hold the line on taxes, his budget will contain higher licensing and permit fees, fines, and penalties to help close the funding gap.

His administration also has asked state employees to take a 5 percent pay cut and make other concessions.

I joked and said, Two years from now I ll go back and ask [Mr. Obama s chief-of-staff] Rahm Emanuel for another $5 billion. That was a joke, Mr. Strickland said.

I think we have a responsibility to do all we can do for ourselves and to work so that we are prepared, he said. One of the reasons I m trying to stress education as strongly as I am is that I believe, when this recovery occurs, we must be prepared to take advantage of it.

The governor did reveal that he will propose higher tipping fees for trucks rolling into landfills to dump trash.

Such proposals in the past have proven controversial because the costs are presumably passed on to the consumer who has his trash bin at the curb for pickup.

Ohio gets a lot of debris, garbage if you will, from states like New York, he said.

Why? If you look at the tipping fees at our landfills in Ohio, and you compare those fees with all of our surrounding states [they re] considerably higher. So, we re going to increase those fees, but we re going to increase them in a way that keeps them consistent with, in fact still lower than, our surrounding states, he said.

He said the fee increases proposed Monday will be credible, defensible, and consistent with our economy, and yet keeps Ohio competitive with our neighboring states.

Contact Jim Provance at:jprovance@theblade.comor 614-221-0496.



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