REGISTER VIEWPOINT: School board should have listened to Facilities Commission

The frustration Sandusky schools have with state officials bubbled over last month when the school board cut short a presentation by the state's Facilities Commission. The Commission has financed new school buildings across the state, but state funding for the Sandusky school district has always fallen far short of being financially feasible.
Commentary
May 10, 2010

The frustration Sandusky schools have with state officials bubbled over last month when the school board cut short a presentation by the state's Facilities Commission. The Commission has financed new school buildings across the state, but state funding for the Sandusky school district has always fallen far short of being financially feasible.

On paper, the school district could get matching funds of up to 40 percent of any new construction project, but the formulas the district would have to comply with in order to get that money makes the matching amount much less attractive. The district would likely have to spend $50 million to renovate Sandusky High School alone to qualify for the assistance, and that money would not even be part of the math to get the match.

It makes no sense, and effectively, the state has over the years shut out Sandusky from qualifying for assistance. So it's understandable school board members would throw their arms in the air and throw state officials out when they came here last month to update school officials about the programs that are available for financial assistance.

Understandable, but we wish they'd listened. Not necessarily made a commitment, but listened, before sending the state on its way.

The state's promises, such as they are, would have been out in the open. And the school board would have held the moral high ground which would have come from the willingness to listen.

Instead, the board leaves itself open to charges of short-sightedness, of being unwilling to see the possibilities.

School board member Richard Koonce was exasperated.

"I just don't see how we can even begin to think about new facilities with everything we're facing right now," he said.

The everything to which Koonce alluded includes House Bill 1, designed to address the broken school funding methods used in Ohio. Maybe it does address problems for some districts, but for Sandusky, House Bill 1 has the potential to cost the school district $7.1 million in funding annually. In this case the cure could be worse than the illness for the city by the bay.

School officials have a right to be frustrated and annoyed, but they should continue the fight, to re-double their efforts, to claw for what Sandusky families need despite the challenges and to build a demanding coalition.