Chief Justice: current court should decide school funding case

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court will urge his colleagues to resolve the state's 11-year-old school-funding case before a newly elected justice joins the court in January.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said on Wednesday that the case should have been ruled on by now and should definitely be decided by the current court.

"It's our case," he said. "The case has been developed by this court -- I think it should be decided by this court."

Republican Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor defeated Democrat Tim Black on Tuesday for an open seat on the court. Justice Andy Douglas, a Toledo Republican, is stepping down because of a mandatory age limit for justices.

Opponents of the court's school-funding decisions supported O'Connor, hoping she would rule the state's education system constitutional. O'Connor has not said how she would rule.

The court has twice ruled the state's school-funding system unconstitutional, saying it favors rich districts over poor. In a third ruling in September 2001, the court ruled 4-3 that the current system would be constitutional if more money was spent on schools.

In November, court agreed to reconsider that decision after estimates of the spending hit $1.2 billion annually.

The court has remained deadlocked since then. Moyer said he doesn't know where the other justices stand now.

"I look at it institutionally," he said. "We should be able to resolve a motion for reconsideration in a reasonable period of time, and we did not do that."

He said the court has a good record of deciding cases quickly. He wouldn't say why that didn't happen in the school funding case.

Moyer, a suburban Columbus Republican, said he would have preferred a ruling before the election.

"I've become pretty philosophical after being here 16 years," he said. "Sometimes things certainly do not work out the way some times you want, and DeRolph is one of those issues."

The case is named for Perry County schoolboy Nathan DeRolph, in whose name the 1991 lawsuit was filed.

Among other things, the original lawsuit said that DeRolph once sat on a floor to take a test because his school lacked chairs.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)