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Deskins: State Money A Problem




“I am excited about some of the out-of-the-box thinking” represented by the education proposals put forward by Ted Strickland, Ohio governor.

“The dilemma is where the funds will come from.”

That’s what David Deskins, Archbold Area School District superintendent, told members of the Archbold Area Chamber of Commerce, Monday, Feb. 9.

Speaking during the noon luncheon, Deskins highlighted some of Strickland’s proposals, but then brought up the funding question.

Strickland’s proposals have Archbold receiving an additional $214,174 in funding for the 2009-10 fiscal year; then an additional $316,415 for 2010-11.

But Deskins said Strickland has yet to explain how he came up with the figures.

He said in the past, the state has put in place new initiatives and backed them with state money.

But, as time passed, the state money dried up, leaving school districts with expensive programs they have to continue to fund.

As an example, Deskins point- ed to the School Net program. Through School Net, the Archbold school district was able to purchase about $400,000 worth of computers with state funds.

Deskins said the computers need to be replaced every six years- but there were no state funds to purchase replacement machines.

“That $400,000 has been rolled back on the school districts.

“School Net was phased out, just like the tangible personal property tax,” he said.

That, he said, has become an unfunded mandate.

As another example, Deskins cited Archbold’s Senior Experience, an outside-of-class research project that was a graduation requirement. The district discontinued the program, due to costs.

Under Strickland’s proposals, a community service program for graduation will be a requirement.

“We ended up cutting the senior experience because we didn’t have the funds to continue it. Now it may become a requirement,” he said.

Cuts

Deskins said during the district’s 2006 financial shake-up, two failed levy attempts sent a clear message: the district had to cut its operating expenses.

District officials responded by slashing about $1.5 million from the budget.

These are not temporary cuts; they are permanent, and district officials are looking for more.

As a result of budget cuts, Deskins said a new operating levy, originally anticipated for 2009, has been put back one or two years.

He noted the district staff had agreed to changes in insurance that saved the district between $300,000 and $400,000, but negotiations with the Archbold Education Association, which represents the teachers, were difficult.

But, he added, “The education association understands the need to tighten our finances,” he said.

Deskins was asked if he were governor, how would he fix Ohio’s education system.

Deskins said he would be only a one-term governor.

He discussed a possible state sales tax for education, and said the Archbold school district had discussed an income tax and an idea that would provide districts with more money for special-needs students.

But, he said, he believes society needs to re-prioritize where it puts children.

When LeBron James, a professional basketball player, is making $100 million a year “and I’m struggling to keep a computer in front of 10 of my kids, I struggle with that,” Deskins said.


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