EDUCATE OHIO Education issue will not make November ballot
Backers of the proposal say they'll try to get the measure on the ballot in 2006.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- Backers of a proposed schools-related constitutional amendment that they say could cut property taxes by more than $2.5 billion statewide are conceding it's not likely to make the state ballot this November.
"It's likely not going to happen this year," Bryan Flannery, who leads Educate Ohio, the group that's pushing the initiative, said Friday.
Flannery, a former Democratic state representative from the Cleveland-area, said his volunteer group has gathered between 160,000 and 170,000 signatures thus far. They would have to gather about 323,000 valid signatures total by Aug. 10 to place the issue before voters this fall, a prospect that backers said didn't appear realistic.
"It will get on the ballot next year," Flannery predicted.
"It's not a question of if it will be on the ballot, but when," said Bill Phillis, executive director of the Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding. The coalition of several hundred school systems that successfully sued the state over its school-funding system is backing the proposal.
Under the proposed constitutional amendment, the state would have to fund 100 percent of the identified cost of a public education minus 15 mills of local property tax, a provision that backers say could reduce property taxes statewide by more than $2.5 billion.
Flannery has said the average statewide millage is 45 mills.
The proposed amendment would also create the Ohio Educational Opportunities Commission made up of 19 members appointed by the governor and representing the different regions of the state.
Under the proposal, every two years the commission would be required to identify the components for "high-quality educational opportunities" based on high-academic standards and the best educational practices.
The State Board of Education would be required every two years to conduct expert studies and determine the total cost of the ideas identified by the proposed commission, under the amendment.
Backers said the proposal could also allow the state to finally meet standards set by the Ohio Supreme Court, which in four decisions has declared the state's method of funding public schools unconstitutional.
The high court has said that an over reliance on property taxes to fund public schools has led to inequities between so-called "rich" and "poor" school systems.
Republican Gov. Bob Taft has opposed to the proposed amendment, saying the state has nearly doubled the funding of public schools since 1991 and is spending at least $2 million per day to build and renovate schools.