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Official unfazed by halt of drive



Published: Fri, July 6, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

The campaign intended to reform school funding in Ohio.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN — Shelley Murray sees the decision to halt a campaign to get a school-funding constitutional amendment on the November ballot as a temporary setback.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to pursue it again later,” said Murray, a member of the Youngstown school board who spearheaded the local arm of the campaign to get the matter before the voters Nov. 6.

The ballot issue was designed to correct Ohio’s unconstitutional school-funding system by gradually increasing the state share of public education. It would have made a high-quality public education the right of every child in the state.

The amendment would declare that every child has a fundamental right to a high-quality public education and take much of the power over education spending away from the Legislature, giving it to a nine-member Education Accountability Commission made up of legislative and gubernatorial appointees and six elected members.

The group behind the movement, calling itself “Getting It Right for Ohio’s Future,” needed to secure the signatures of just over 402,000 Ohio voters by the Aug. 8 filing deadline but announced this week that it couldn’t make that deadline.

The group had gathered about 150,000 signatures so far.

Local issues

Murray said the group decided to halt its drive to give individual school districts time to work on their own ballot issues, primarily tax levies that must appear on the November ballot.

Youngstown is among them, having to ask taxpayers for more funds to help wipe out a $15 million general fund deficit.

Concern was that the statewide referendum might be a distraction for voters facing local tax issues, Murray said.

She said she was disappointed the drive had to be dropped, but she is impressed with the all-volunteer effort netting so many signatures, although she thought it might have attracted more support.

Surveys show that education is a No. 1 issue for Ohio voters, Murray said, adding she had hoped the funding reform would have caught fire more quickly.

“It doesn’t mean anybody is giving up,” she said of the decision to halt the campaign now. It could be renewed next year, she said.

If nothing else, it could serve as a model for Gov. Ted Strickland and the state legislature as they work on school-funding issues, Murray said, noting that the governor has said he wants to work with the legislature to devise a new funding system for public education.

“Everybody’s excited about that,” she said.

gwin@vindy.com


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