State Journal: Reluctant plaintiffs; holding action

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Reluctant plaintiffs

Members of the Ohio state school board were understandably agitated last month when they learned that the state attorney general included them as petitioners in an effort to defend the state's school-finance system--even though they had voted not to join in the appeal.

The state board voted 6 to 5 not to join an appeal of a verdict that found the state's school-funding system unconstitutional this summer. But when top state prosecutors filed their appeal, the board was included along with the state education department, the state superintendent, and the state itself.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office explained that the prosecutors decided to override the board's vote in the interest of legal strategy. Board members, however, were not impressed by the explanation.

"We were insulted," said Oliver Ocasek, the board's president, relaying the outrage of several board members who said they are looking into legal strategies of their own to assure that their official actions will be taken seriously.

Holding action

When it comes to the New York legislature, it may be wise to remember the baseball manager and philosopher Yogi Berra's immortal words: "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Just before recessing in July, the New York state legislature passed a bill restricting the ability of the state's five biggest cities to siphon off state education aid for other projects.

Passage should have put haggling over the bill to rest. But the Senate balked at an amendment attached in the Assembly that would exempt the city of Rochester, and the lawmakers decided to refrain from formally transmitting the bill to Gov. Mario M. Cuomo for his signature. As of last week, it remained in limbo.

Public education groups--led by the state school boards' association--are taking the matter to court this month. The suit charges that the Senate is violating the state constitution by holding the bill.

But William S. Stevens, a spokesman for Ralph J. Marino, the Senate majority leader, said that the legislature is technically still in session and does not have to send the bill to the Governor until Dec. 31.

The bill will go nowhere until some parity is established between the five cities it would affect, Mr. Stevens said.

--Lonnie Harp & Drew Lindsay

Vol. 14, Issue 01

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