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Ohio schools will remain open despite March 24 deadline

By John Seewer Associated Press Published: March 12, 1998 12:00 AM

COLUMBUS _ All Ohio schools will remain open even if the Ohio Supreme Court opts not to extend the deadline given to the Ohio Legislature for finding a new way to pay for public education.

The attorney general's office has changed its position from earlier this week, when it suggested some Ohio schools might not be able to remain in operation past the March 24 deadline without the extension. The remark was quickly criticized by legislative leaders Tuesday.

"Of course ... the state will continue to allocate school funds through the end of the fiscal year," the attorney general's office said in its request to the court.

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Attorney General Betty Montgomery is still requesting the deadline be extended until after the May 5 election when state voters will be asked to decide whether to increase the state sales tax to pay for schools.

The state Supreme Court, which declared Ohio's system of paying for schools unconstitutional last year, told the Legislature it had until March 24 to come up with a new funding plan.

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The state's plan includes asking voters to increase the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent. The tax increase would raise $1.1 billion per year, which would be evenly split between education and residential property-tax relief.

Montgomery first asked Perry County Common Pleas Court Judge Linton Lewis Jr. to extend the deadline. Lewis has been put in charge of overseeing the state's remedy.

But Lewis said Tuesday he could not extend the deadline past March 24 because the Ohio Supreme Court set it. He said only the high court had the authority to change the deadline.

The Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding opposes the extension. The group has said the state's aim is to delay the process.

The court gave lawmakers one year to come up with a system that relies less on property taxes and deals with gaps in per-pupil spending in different districts.

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