Supreme Court turns down schools' request to block funding cuts

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a request from parents and teachers to prevent Gov. Bob Taft from cutting $100 million from schools.
The court voted 4-2 to turn down the request by the Ohio Education Association, a 130,000-member teachers union. The union went to court on behalf of five parents from Girard, Warren and Columbus, who also are educators in Ohio's public schools.
The teachers had asked the court to restore state funding for schools to levels before the reductions. They said the reductions exacerbated what has already been found to be an inadequately funded system.
The court ruled without explanation. Justice Deborah Cook, whose nomination to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was approved by the U.S. Senate on Monday, did not participate.
The decision "underscores the governor's ability to take very tough action to balance the budget," Taft spokesman Orest Holubec said Wednesday. A message was left with OEA president Gary Allen.
The union sued in March after Taft ordered cuts in funding to primary and secondary schools to balance the state budget.
Taft said the reductions were necessary after the Legislature rejected his proposal to close a $720 million deficit by raising taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.
Lawmakers said they believed Taft could cut state agency budgets even further to fill the deficit before raising taxes. They tried to prevent Taft from cutting school funding, but the governor vetoed that provision in the budget bailout bill. The veto meant that his March 5 executive order remained in effect.
It directed the Ohio Department of Education to cut $91 million from the basic aid the state provides for each student and about $9.3 million in education department administrative spending.
Many districts said it was too late in the school year to make substantial cuts and that the real reductions would come next year in the form of eliminating jobs.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)