Kim Grant, a Kings Mills resident and candidate for Kings School Board, is flanked by school signs. Kings is one of nine public school systems in Ohio that are under scrutiny for using payroll deductions to raise campaign money. / The Enquirer/Joseph Fuqua II
Michael D. Clark reports:
Some Ohio school districts are breaking the law by deducting money from employees’ paychecks to spend on levy campaigns, critics and state education officials say.
Of Southwest Ohio’s 49 public school systems, nine use payroll deductions to raise campaign money: Kings, Mason, Fairfield, Middletown, Loveland, Madeira, Mariemont, Reading and West Clermont schools, The Enquirer learned through public records requests.
The districts collect the employees’ voluntary contributions and forward the money to private campaign organizations.
It’s an illegal use of resources and personnel of publicly funded schools, asserts Christopher Finney, attorney and founding member of the Hamilton County-based Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST).
Finney cites Ohio Revised Code 3315.07, which states in part “no board of education shall use public funds to support or oppose the passage of a school levy or bond issue or to compensate any school district employee for time spent on any activity intended to influence the outcome of a school levy or bond issue.”
Finney says the practice is surprisingly blatant.
“It’s outrageous because typically the abuse of tax dollars to advance the cause of bigger government is usually more subtle,” he said.
Finney, whose group has been a longtime critic and active litigator against various area school districts, is backed by some state school officials.
Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Board Association, said OSBA discourages the practice.
“School districts are prohibited by law from devoting any resources, including personnel time, equipment or in-kind services, to any political campaigns, including levies and bond issues,” he said.
School district officials defend the programs.
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