Legislators shouldn’t slide items into state budget

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

School boards, unlike cities and villages, are unquestionably legal creatures of state government. Even so, some in Columbus who ballyhoo their devotion to local control of public education seem to feel that way only if school boards act as these lawmakers think they should.

This much is clear after state Senate Republicans slid a Pledge of Allegiance rider into Ohio’s 2009-2011 budget. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission, the rider would prohibit any school district “from preventing a teacher having students recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in the teacher’s classroom.” And if the pledge were recited, the amendment also forbids any changes in the official wording of the pledge.

This frivolity amid the state’s worst budget crisis in years was aimed at one district out of 614 — Oberlin. Its Board of Education voted in May to continue that district’s 30-year-old policy of not saying the Pledge of Allegiance. A possible compromise would have been to delete the phrase “under God.”

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The policy the Senate wants to impose on all districts should be debated separately, not slid into Ohio law as a free rider, like a cowbird on a buffalo. The pledge amendment deserved an item-veto from Strickland.

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer