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Ohio Educators File Lawsuit Claiming Undue State Interference in Schools

— September 19, 2023

The lawsuit claims that a recent appropriations bill would let the governor’s office seize control of educational curricula statewide.

A group of Ohio educators has filed a lawsuit alleging that a recent conservative overhaul of the way in which the state oversees public education, including decisions on academic standards and curricula, violates critical provisions of the Ohio Constitution.

According to The Associated Press, the Buckeye State’s Republican-dominated legislature recently passed oversight of Ohio’s education department from the State Board of Education to a director appointed directly by the governor.

As part of the transition, many of the board’s powers will be transferred to the new director, with the successor agency to be named the Department of Education and Workforce.

“Significantly, the Education Takeover Rider did not create a new body separate and apart from the board,” the lawsuit says. “Instead, it unconstitutionally hollowed out a constitutionally mandated, independent body by transferring all of its core responsibilities to an agency controlled by the governor.

“The legislation removed the board altogether from […] the statute that had governed its duties for 70 years, by simply striking the words ‘state board of education’ and replacing them with ‘department of education and workforce’ throughout,” the complaint states.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

In their lawsuit, filed against the state and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, educators argue that the overhaul effectively “guts” the citizen-elected, independent, and constitutionally-created state board, delegating vast new powers to the governor’s office.

Collectively, the seven plaintiffs say that, by letting the executive decide education-related policy, Ohio is effectively depriving citizens of their right to participate in policymaking by electing board members.

“The General Assembly is not permitted to abolish the constitutionally created board via legislative workaround,” the lawsuit states. “And what the Ohio Constitution forbids the General Assembly from accomplishing directly, it also forbids the General Assembly from achieving indirectly.”

Skye Perryman, President and C.E.O. of Democracy Forward, told The Associated Press that Ohio’s moves are indicative of political extremism.

“[The education overhaul] is a prime example of the broader movement by extremist-controlled governors’ mansions and legislatures to deprive communities of meaningful representation,” Perryman said. “In Ohio, these actions are contrary to more than seven decades of non-partisan control by directly elected representatives.”

The lawsuit also asserts that Ohio legislators violated state law by inappropriately including the education overhaul with a budget reform initiative.

This, attorneys say, violated Ohio’s so-called “single subject” rule, which is meant to deter lawmakers from adding additional items into a bill if they believe that one or more provisions would not succeed alone.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction preventing the changes from taking effect—and, eventually, a revocation of the measure in its entirety.


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