Lawmakers are hoping to create a school facilities program to help districts with little prospect of getting traditional facilities assistance the option of smaller amounts to address technology and security needs.
Sens. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati) testified Wednesday on their SB8 in the Senate Education Committee. Rep. Steve Arndt (R-Port Clinton) testified Tuesday on his HB37.
Gardner said his measure’s place among the first Senate bills to be introduced this session reflects the priority members of the chamber are placing on it, noting it’s something lawmakers tried to address in 131-SB3 (Faber-Hite). Language in that bill, largely meant to be a de-regulation measure for schools, requires the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) to develop a proposal for how it could provide funding for technology and safety to districts that haven’t participated in the traditional Classroom Facilities Assistance Program (CFAP).
“I would argue it’s SB8 for a reason. It means it’s going to receive serious consideration,” Gardner said.
Gardner said many school districts are so far down the list or are projected to have such a low state share of funding that CFAP isn’t a viable option, but they nonetheless have some specific facilities needs.
“We know there are a number of districts in the state that are not likely to participate in that program, or if they do they will be many, many years away,” he said.
Terhar said safety and security should be a priority at all schools, while schools also need help keeping up with technological change.
“When we have kids sitting on the bus on a smartphone that could run the space shuttle, and then go into a classroom and we’re back to pencils and paper … that’s absolutely nonsensical,” Terhar said.
Gardner said he wants to work collaboratively with OSFC and the administration, noting the bill is very short because it leaves many of the details to OSFC.
Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester) asked if it should be open to all schools, not just public schools. Gardner said he wasn’t sure of the details of how that would work but said he wants to maximize the benefit of the program.
Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), the chair of the committee, noted there’s unused charter school facilities funding left over from the current operating budget.