Gardner, Arndt sponsor school support bill

Staff report

District 2 Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) is one of two state legislators sponsoring legislation to expand the state’s facilities funding program to help more school districts.

He and State Representative Steve Arndt (R-Port Clinton) said their bill will allow school districts which have not participated in the Ohio School Facilities Commission to qualify for technology or security funding.

The bill will be introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate this week.

“Our bill will provide school officials with the freedom to choose another option to help their school districts,” Gardner said. “It is impractical for some school districts to participate in the state’s traditional construction and renovation program. This new idea has the potential to help students at these schools.”

In the late 1990s, Ohio embarked on the most aggressive school construction and repair program in the nation, involving hundreds of school buildings and billions of state dollars. Eligibility for the program is based on a statewide ranking of districts involving a district’s property wealth. Some school districts that rank low on the list are not eligible for funding for many years and would receive a relatively small percentage in state funding of a project’s total cost.

Gardner and Arndt want to establish a second option, where districts could decide to opt out of the traditional new building and renovation program known as Classroom Facilities Assistance Program (CFAP) and enter into a new program for school technology or security funding assistance. The intent would be for schools to receive funds sooner and would not be required to provide a high percentage share of local funds to be eligible.

“We are concerned that some school districts in Ohio, including many in our region of Ohio, will never consider the current facilities funding program to be the right choice for them,” Arndt said. “This new bill gives them an opportunity to qualify sooner for needs that can really help students.”

Key components of the bill are:

• Technology infrastructure and security upgrades would be eligible for funding.

* Requires the Ohio School Facilities Commission to establish the program with eligibility for districts that have not received funding under the current program.

• Requires the decision to enter into the new program to be accompanied by a super-majority vote of four school board members.

• Total funding packages would be established by the commission, but assistance to schools would be sooner than under the current traditional program.

• The current CFAP program would not be impacted – funding amounts and year of eligibility for schools in the traditional construction program would remain unchanged.

“We have already received strong interest for this idea from school leaders in the area,” Gardner said. “It only makes sense to provide as many options as possible so that more schools can participate.”

Staff report