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Taft reads, then goes by the book



Published: Fri, August 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The governor said the state's incentive plan for GM Lordstown could include money for training.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Gov. Bob Taft doesn't know when General Motors officials will settle on where to build their newest small cars, and he won't talk about the impending Ohio Supreme Court decision on school funding.

But he seemed to enjoy reading to the children.

Taft read a book to several young children Thursday morning in the Canfield Fair Educational Hall to kick off Mahoning Valley Reads, a local initiative that is part of the OhioReads program. The governor also joined other state and local officials at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the fair.

GM plans: After reading to the children, Taft was asked by reporters about GM's plans for their small cars, as well as a possible Ohio Supreme Court decision on school funding. Representatives of GM Lordstown have created plans for renovations that would allow the small cars to be built at their plant.

The plant, which makes the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire, employs nearly 5,000 hourly and salaried workers. An adjacent fabrication plant employs more than 2,500.

Taft said that one of the highest priorities on his economic agenda is encouraging GM to build their new product at the Lordstown plant. He added, however, that he did not know when GM would make a decision on the construction of the new product.

A shop chairman for United Auto Workers Local 1112 in Lordstown has said he hopes the GM board of directors will make a decision on the renovations at their October meeting.

Meanwhile, Taft said state officials are creating a "very attractive" package of incentives designed to encourage GM officials to build the small cars in Lordstown. The incentives include money for job training, he said.

School funding: Taft also was asked about a report in The Plain Dealer of Cleveland stating that the Ohio Supreme Court is willing to accept a revised version of the state's $1.4 billion school funding plan.

Justices want the state to spend more on parity aid, a new program that gives poor school districts extra money to help close the academic gap with wealthier ones, the newspaper report says.

The state's new system calls for phasing in the program over five years, providing $95 million this year, $205 million next year and $500 million a year in 2006. A draft of a court ruling would require the state to speed up the phase-in, The Plain Dealer said.

Justices also want the state to increase how much each district is guaranteed per student each year. Under the current formula, districts are guaranteed $4,814 per student.

The court ruled in March 1997 and in May 2000 that Ohio's funding system relies too much on local property taxes, creating disparities between rich and poor districts.

Taft said that while he supports the state's plan, he did not want to comment on the potential ruling from the court. A comment on the possible ruling would be conjecture, he added.

"I think we really have to wait and see," Taft said.

XThe Associated Press contributed to this story.

hill@vindy.com




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