State legislative leaders announced yesterday they will advance more than $30 million in public education subsidies to the teetering Cleveland school district to avert a threatened shutdown of the 111,000-pupil system through June.
But they also insisted the scheme was only a temporary solution for the debt-ridden district and that is now up to the Cleveland voters to reverse their course and pass a stiff property tax increase June 6.
Ohio House Speaker Vernal Riffe, a Democrat, said the wove was "a long way from a bailout." He said the state was merely advancing money due the schools in September.
The schools are currently about $322 million in debt.
Like other legislative and school officials, Riffe said he couldn't predict where the money would come from to pay off the advance if the voters again turned down the levy."I guess there will be more trouble," he said.
By nearly 2 to 1, Cleveland voters rejected a similar levy April 6 that would have produced $30 million annually for five years. In the wake of the levy's defeat, the city's teachers - who haven't been paid since March 17 - have been preparing for a strike, which would entitle them to food stamps and other benefits.
There already have been some disruptions caused by student walkouts in protest of the cutoff of school employes' salaries.
Riffe and Senate Majority Leader Oliver Ocasek, also a Democrat, have been fearful of the effects that new state aid would have on the willingness of the voters to increase their taxes, but they agreed that somehow the schools would have to stay open.
"The solution," said Ocasek, "is to pass a levy."
More than 150 other Ohio school districts also have financial problems in varying degrees. Teachers seeking higher wages have struck the Toledo schools. And in Bruswick, Ohio, south of Cleveland, 24 striking teachers have been jailed for defying a court order to return to school.