School funding was the major topic of discussion during a town hall meeting last week with state Rep. Marian Harris (D-Canal Winchester).

School funding was the major topic of discussion during a town hall meeting last week with state Rep. Marian Harris (D-Canal Winchester).

More than 20 residents from Ohio House District 19 attended the Feb. 19 meeting to learn more about the newly elected state representative and express their concerns and ideas about education, public transportation and health care at Madison Township's community center.

Harris said she supports Gov. Ted Strickland's education reform plan.

"It was very impressive," she said "He's not just putting Band-Aids on it, which is what we've had for the past 15 years."

Harris said under the governor's plan, school district operating levies will be less frequent. Fifty-nine percent of school funding will come from the state. The rest will come from property taxes, she said.

"You do want to maintain that local control," she said.

Harris said four of the five school districts in her constituency have operating levies on the ballot for May.

Residents wanted to know how to pass a levy in a school district such as Canal Winchester, where residents have turned down four levy attempts in the past three years.

Harris said passing a levy is about marketing it and avoiding misconceptions.

"You have to vote for that levy," she said. "You have to work for it. I'll come out and knock on doors for you."

Tim Hanely, of Canal Winchester, said he's voted for school operating levies the past two times. He said school officials should not raise the millage rate after each failure.

Harris explained that each time a levy fails, the need for revenue compounds, which means school officials are more likely to ask for higher millage.

"You've got to have money," she said. "I often think we should change the word 'taxes' to 'dues.' If you want to live in a civilized society, you got to pay the dues."

She said the education system in this country pales in comparison to European countries.

"We ought to be ashamed," she said.

Discussion continued among residents about ways to improve state services in public transportation and health care.

One resident said he would support gambling in Ohio if he knew the proceeds would go toward funding schools.

Harris said she is "on the fence" when it comes to gambling. The social issue takes more importance, she said, but added that she would be willing to change her mind if proceeds could fund a service such as education.

Because she's been in office only about a month, Harris said she can provide only simple answers to many residents' questions.

"I describe myself as broadly shallow," she said. "I know a little bit about a lot of things."

She said she plans to hold regular meetings and invite experts to talk more in depth about certain topics.

After the meeting, Hanely said he was impressed to see Harris holding a town hall meeting after only a month in office. He said the current General Assembly members inherited the problems the state faces now.

"I don't blame the current administration for these problems," he said.

Hanely added he's hopeful for the governor's education reform plan.

"It sounds like Chinese math, but who cares if it works," he said.

Canal Winchester resident Kevin Owen said that "to hear everybody's panoramic point of view was helpful."

He added he thinks Mayor Michael Ebert should back the Canal Winchester schools operating levy "more vocally."