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Strickland applauds South Point schools

SOUTH POINT — Gov. Ted Strickland was in South Point Thursday to demonstrate that the district’s schools are right on target for what the governor sees for the future of Ohio education.

Middle school students and faculty offered presentations on a project funded from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) grants that Strickland applauded as offering education that will work in a technology-driven economy.

“This is a perfect example of a project based on learning and encouraging 21st Century skills, the ability to take information and apply it in a real-world situation,” Strickland told the audience at South Point High.

Detailing the project where eighth grade students designed a mini roller coaster out of pipe insulation and a marble. Students R. J. McCarty and Holly Hall showed the integration of math and science.

“The concepts of math and science were already taught. They brought it together in real-life problem solving,” Donna Nelson, eighth grade math teacher, said.

Strickland’s visit came as a partisan battle over the budget looms in Columbus following a recent Senate version of the state’s financial plan that deviated the governor’s efforts to revamp the way Ohio funds public education. It’s been a decade since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the way the state funds education, proving a thorn in the side of past governors.

Strickland had pledged $925 million of new money into the state school system over the next biennium in what is termed an evidence-based funding model.

Recently, Thomas Ash, director of legislative relations for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, explained that this model is geared toward getting performance gains for students.

“I tend to call it an expectation model,” Ash said. “There is an expectation the district will work toward those things. I think it is better than what we have now, which is a confusing mixture of the number of students you have and your local ability to tax.”

However, the Republican-led Senate wants to go back to the per-pupil funding model. In a question-answer with reporters Strickland blasted Sen. John Carey for his support of the Senate budget proposal, which also reinstates funding to charter schools.

Strickland said Carey was ignoring the 1.8 million public school students in favor of 80,000 who go to charter schools. Anticipating an upcoming legislative battle, Strickland said “I’m going to fight as hard as I can fight.”

The governor was also asked what the state’s position was on the building crisis facing the Green school district. This spring Superintendent Ron Lindsey shut down the primary building because of dangerous structural problems.

In a letter last month to Strickland Lindsey said the schools facilities formula hamstrings the district when it comes to a building project.

To put up a new school at least a 20-mil bond would be required because the formula translates into a local share of 54 percent, doubling local property tax. The superintendent has lobbied for a change in the funding formula

In a private meeting with area superintendents later Thursday, Strickland expected to discuss the matter with Lindsey.

“It is something we are concerned about,” the governor said. “It is difficult to make an exception to the formula. … This gets really tough. Money is very limited.”