Ohio Supreme Court ends 1991 school-funding case

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court on Friday ended the 12-year-old school funding case that led to three rulings over five years declaring the state's educational system unconstitutional.
Ohio has spent billions of additional dollars on schools as a result of the rulings.
"The DeRolph case is over," said Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Petro. The case is named for southeast Ohio schoolboy Nathan DeRolph.
The court ruled 5-2 to "end any further litigation" in the case that was first filed in Perry County in 1991 in part because DeRolph had to sit on a floor to take a test because there weren't enough desks.
"The duty now lies with the General Assembly to remedy an educational system that has been found ... still to be unconstitutional," Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton wrote for the majority.
Justices Alice Robie Resnick and Francis Sweeney dissented without comment.
In its ruling, the court decided in favor of the state that Judge Linton Lewis of Perry County no longer has jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court had ruled in December that Ohio's school-funding system remains unconstitutional because it relies too much on local property taxes.
The coalition of schools suing Ohio over the funding system then asked the Perry County court to have Lewis supervise compliance with the high court decision. In turn, Petro asked the Supreme Court to rule that Lewis no longer has jurisdiction.
The court agreed with Petro.
The December ruling "forbids Judge Lewis ... to exercise further jurisdiction in this matter," Lundberg Stratton said.
A message seeking comment was left with the Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.
The December ruling was the third time the court said the system creates disparities between rich and poor districts.
For example, Federal Hocking schools in southeast Ohio spent $7,492 on each student last year but raised just 19 percent of the money from local residents.
By contrast, Upper Arlington schools in suburban Columbus spent $10,750 on each student and raised 82 percent of the money from local residents.
Following the Supreme Court's first ruling, lawmakers created the Ohio School Facilities Commission to rebuild and renovate Ohio schools. The agency has spent more than $3 billion since, with new buildings rising in many rural and poor communities.
During the current two-year budget, Gov. Bob Taft and lawmakers included an additional $1.4 billion in spending on education because of the court's rulings.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)