School funding could define Strickland's job

It's a hard job, but somebody's got to do it. Sandusky school district Treasurer Troy Bouts, an expert on school funding issu
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

It's a hard job, but somebody's got to do it.

Sandusky school district Treasurer Troy Bouts, an expert on school funding issues, put it this way: "Each new regime that comes in certainly has good intentions ... then they find out what they are up against and it becomes so burdensome they don't actually accomplish their goal."

Enter Gov.-elect Ted Strickland, who told the Register last week that fixing Ohio's broken and unconstitutional school funding method will be a top priority after he's sworn in next month.

As well it should be.

Strickland likely will go down in history as a failed governor of a failing state if he does not create the alliances and exert the leadership necessary to change the way the state funds public schools.

It's broken and must be fixed. The state Supreme Court ordered the state Legislature to do that more than a decade ago, but the leadership in Columbus stumbled and bumbled at every step until it finally just stopped trying.

The court ruled the property tax funding method unconstitutional because it does not give every student in the state an opportunity for a quality education. Property values in some areas of the state have been depressed for generations and the taxes generated in those districts do not support a quality education while areas where property values are strong can provide better educational opportunities for wealthier Ohioans.

Strickland knows that all too well. As a U.S. congressman from the state's Appalachian region, he saw first-hand the financial challenges poorer school districts face. But in the years since the Supreme Court ruling came down, more and more school districts across the state are becoming poorer and are being pinched by unfunded educational mandates and decreasing state and federal funding.

Taxpayers have expressed their view, over and over again, by rejecting new tax levies at the ballot year after year. Voters want this problem fixed. They want a fair and balanced funding system that works for all of Ohio's students.

Strickland campaigned on the promise he would not back away from this challenge, and we appreciate his thoughtful understanding of the hurdles he faces.

We hope Bouts is wrong, and finally something will be done to fix this open sore.