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PoliticsOhio: State Budget Won't Relieve School's Financial Woes, Says Lawmaker

Kettering Republican Senator Peggy Lehner was appointed this week to continue her work as chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education. She previewed what's ahead this year with Emily McCord. Lehner says isnt' likely to see any more cash earmarked for education in the upcoming state budget, but other ways to find revenue are in the works to help Ohio's schools, like Governor Kasich's plan to overhaul the school funding system.

Welcome to PoliticsOhio I'm Emily McCord. This week Senator Faber, the new Senate President, has announced positions for the Senate and Kettering Republican Senator Peggy Lehner will continue serving as chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education she joins me here to talk about what’s happening in the next year. Thanks for being here today.

Lehner: I’m glad to be able to be here.

M: Tell me when it comes to education what are the main priorities that you are going to be looking at as we look at the year ahead?

L: Well, obviously the number one issue that everyone's going to be looking at is what the Governor does, what the Governor's proposal is for new school funding program. You know, when he took office he decided to just sort of put a temporary funding formula in place basically holding everyone where they were at the time he took office and promised that he would come up with a new funding formula as soon as possible. It has taken a bit longer than he anticipated it’s terribly complicated; very difficult. Obviously, if it was something that had been easy to solve someone would have solved it well before now. So, everyone is looking to that with great anticipation.

M: We know that legislator’s, their, number one priority is going to be the spending blueprint, the budget, that’s' going to be approved in June. What kinds of things are we going to see in regards of education?


L: Well, I think it all very much depends on the funding formula, I don't anticipate that there's going to be a lot more, if any, additional money appropriated for education. We are all hoping that at the very least it does not get cut any further. I think if people are looking for any large infusion of money in the education spending they are going to be disappointed because there's no such infusion out there to be had. So it’s going to be more a question of how money is allocated than how much is allocated.

M: There is money that is available for the rainy day fund as I understand it. Some Democrats and liberals groups are saying we should be spending that money on schools and education. What would be your response to that?

L: Well, I think it is irresponsible for the state to not have a healthy rainy day fund. That money is there to deal with crises, emergencies that occur; it’s the sort of money reserve if you head into another recession. And there is certainly enough talk out there that that could happen again depending on what continues to transpire with the fiscal cliff. So, I frankly think it is irresponsible to be spending that money. The last governor allowed that fund to be cut down to 89 cents and it was a top priority for Governor Kasich to rebuild that into a healthy reserve and I don't think we are going to see him want to disrupt that and go back to emptying out that fund.


M: A lot of schools in the Miami Valley have been having some trouble fiscally, we have levies that haven’t passed a lot of school budgets being cut, many saying we can't cut anymore. What kind of solutions are you going to be doing at the state level to help schools make it through this tough time?

L: Well, unfortunately there are not any easy answers to this question and I wish I had some. Everyone, every local district took a hit in the recession frankly we aren't in a whole lot better situation right now. Unfortunately many many schools, Huber Heights is one of them, have made all the cuts they can possibly make short of doing away with extra curriculars and cutting teachers, etc. So somehow we have to solve this problem I think it’s time we maybe look for some new revenue sources I think there are some opportunities for additional funding at the state through a severance tax on the fracking industry in the Eastern half of the state. The Governor would like to use that money to lower people's income tax and I think maybe we need to be looking at maybe if it couldn’t be better spent helping local communities not have to raise their property taxes. The casinos are going to be starting to produce significant amount of revenue, much of which is dedicated to go to, is appropriated to go to, schools. If we make education a priority in this state, which I think it is for this governor, it certainly is for me then we certainly have to do something to address this very serious problem of funding. Some of that is making sure we are spending our money the right way, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that many of our schools have cut as far as they can.

M: I have been speaking with Senator Peggy Lehner she's a republican from Kettering and the chair of the senate standing committee on education thank you for joining us today.

L: Thank you Emily.