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Rural Ohio Coalition Calls New State Budget Worst in Decades for Poor Districts

An organization made of 136 rural Appalachian school districts is calling Ohio's latest spending plan the worst for poor districts in decades.

The Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools, which is a partnership with the Ohio University College of Education, represents a 35-county region of Ohio that is within Appalachia.

Tom Perkins, the group's president and superintendent of the Northern Local school district, said in The Hannah Report story that the state's poorest districts are being hardest hit by the new funding formula, and that the state is making it difficult to maintain excellent programs for students.

Another one of its past presidents said its member schools are going to have to rely more on local property values and taxes. That was a key problem in 1997 when the state Supreme Court found its funding formula unconstitutional.

A recent Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial seemed to agree with some of the coalition's arguments. It explained how the budget could trigger higher and more unpopular school levies.

"What is really galling is that none of these crucial policy shifts was open to vigorous public debate," according to the editorial. "It was not representative government's finest hour."

The Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools had appeared in Columbus multiple times this session to talk about the need for more funding. After one lawmaker pointed out that school funding had increased, the group said that money hasn't kept pace with rising operating costs.

The coalition's executive director, Richard Murray, said 54 of the state's high-performing poor districts won't receive new money from the state while charter schools receive millions more.

"That's not fair to our kids or our communities," he said in the Hannah story.

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