Thursday, September 30, 2004

Forum's funding premise disputed

Cates: How much money is enough for schools?

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

WEST CHESTER TWP. - At least one Ohio legislator took exception to allegations of inadequate funding for Ohio's schools during a forum here.

Ohio schools are getting more money today than they did 10 years ago, Rep. Gary Cates, R-West Chester Township, told a crowd of 60 during a Public Education Matters forum Wednesday at the Marriott Inn.

"We have not cut schools. We have funded schools," Cates said in response to a written question. He did not provide specific figures.

Cates said that legislators have a difficult task trying to juggle the needs of schools along with properly funding prisons, Medicaid, roads and other areas while balancing the budget.

Further, he said educators must help. Representatives of the Ohio Education Association and other organizations who sit on the governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force - a group seeking school funding alternatives - aren't offering any solutions.

"We have 612 school districts," Cates said. "They can't agree among themselves how schools should be funded."

Scott Siebel, who is running for a seat in the 53rd District, took aim at Cates.

"I don't want our representatives saying, 'It's not my fault' and placing blame," said Siebel, 22. "We need new people with new ideas to get in there and fix it. We have to get away from the overabundance on property tax."

The discussion followed presentations from legislators, candidates and OEA officials who talked about school funding, statewide improvement on test scores and the growing number of school districts that are going to voters for additional dollars to fund day-to-day operations and to build and repair schools.

The forum was one of 32 held statewide by the Ohio Education Association and other school groups to bring together educators, legislators and the community to discuss the challenges and successes of public education in Ohio.

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