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Published: Friday, 7/18/2003

Legislature will reconvene to secure federal school funds


COLUMBUS - The Ohio General Assembly is expected to convene for one day in early August to ensure the federal government doesn't withhold $403 million for primary and secondary education.

A House-Senate conference committee is set to meet today to resolve different versions of a bill to put the state into compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind law. It requires students to be tested in reading and math every year from grades three to eight and districts to break out those scores based on race, ethnicity, income, and disability.

A U.S. Department of Education administrator made it clear yesterday that if the legislature doesn't act by the start of the school year in mid-August, the federal government would withhold Title I funds. It is the program in which federal dollars flow to poorer school districts, including the Toledo Public Schools.

“Failure to timely implement [No Child Left Behind] jeopardizes this critical funding for Ohio's schools and children,” wrote Ronald Tomalis, a high-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Education.

The Ohio House of Representatives passed the No Child Left Behind bill on May 21, but the Senate made several changes. The House didn't have enough yes votes on June 25 to make the bill take effect immediately, and both chambers recessed for the summer.

The chief issue is a provision that should have been included in the state budget bill, but instead was inserted into the No Child Left Behind bill.

Ohio's complex school-funding formula included an enrollment count in October. That count then was averaged with the two previous years' enrollments and the higher number was used, according to the state Department of Education.

A provision in the No Child Left Behind bill would require an enrollment count twice a year, and the numbers could not be averaged.

State Rep. Bill Hartnett (D., Mansfield) said that would hurt urban school districts.

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