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Published: Thursday, 5/29/2003

Local education leaders plead with senators to restore funds

Officials with the University of Toledo and Toledo Public Schools gathered yesterday afternoon to make an 11th-hour plea to state senators to increase funding for public education.

“We need their help and support. We need them to refocus on the value of public education in the state of Ohio,” said TPS Superintendent Eugene Sanders, one day after the district approved $15 million in budget cuts.

UT President Daniel Johnson, standing with the other officials in front of the bell tower of University Hall at UT, said that if help doesn't arrive from legislators, more serious cuts in services to students could be necessary.

“It would be extremely painful,” he said. “We're just very hopeful that that will not be necessary.”

Gov. Bob Taft proposed a $49.2 billion, two-year spending plan, but the House-passed budget was $700 million smaller. Of those savings, $311 million came from colleges and universities and $363 million from K-12 education.

A Senate proposal presented yesterday would restore some of those cuts.

Reached at his home last night, Dr. Sanders said he wasn't aware of the plan, but added, “I think any restoration of funding cuts to both K-12 and higher ed is the absolute action to take on the part of the legislators.”

During their news conference, Dr. Sanders and Dr. Johnson said they wrote a letter asking legislators to keep in mind that UT and TPS have made efforts to work together and improve.

“We are doing our part to focus on our core missions, to cut costs, to increase collaboration and achieve even higher levels of efficiency in the delivery of important educational and academic programs,” the letter states.

In particular, Dr. Johnson said UT's college of education has helped in teacher preparation and the university is working to improve the preparation of area public school children for college. There could be collaborations in other areas as well, he said.

“We're looking for opportunities where there might be strong justification for joint facilities,” he said.

As for cuts, UT already has eliminated three sports programs and four executive positions. Officials are eyeing academic programs for possible cuts and reallocations.

On Tuesday night, the Toledo Board of Education voted to eliminate about 325 jobs and several vocational-education programs.

“We're in tough times,” said Peter Silverman, school board president. “If the Senate does not restore cuts ... we will be facing these kinds of cuts in years ahead.”

Dr. Johnson said he is hopeful public education will be a major priority when the state budget is finalized.

“I think the message is starting to come through in these final days of deliberation,” he said.



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