Ohio Assembly Accused of Pulling Fast One

     COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – An Ohio Senate bill that was drastically altered just prior to passage allows for the complete elimination of a city school district and grants one executive complete control over a district, a lawsuit claims.
     The Youngstown City School District Board of Education and several teachers’ unions sued Ohio, claiming politicians added more than 67 pages to House Bill 70 on the day it was passed.
     The amended bill, which originally dealt only with the establishment of community learning centers, was passed on June 24 after only one reading in the state senate, according to the complaint.
     The board of education’s lawsuit claims “the Senate Education Committee ‘vitally altered’ the legislation” immediately prior to its passage, including language that now “allows for the complete elimination of a city school district, without consent, debate or input from the voters in the city school district.”
     The bill also appoints a CEO to exercise control over a school district and its functions, eliminating the elected board of education’s authority, according to the complaint.
     “Among other things, HB 70 expressly grants the chief executive officer the authority to: change the mission of the school and its curriculum; replace principals and administrative staff; make reductions in staff; contract with nonprofit or for-profit entities to manage any school within the district; establish employee compensation; allocate teacher class loads; conduct employee evaluations; set the school calendar; define employee responsibilities and job descriptions; create a budget; modify policies and procedures established by the school board; establish grade configuration; select instructional materials; and set class size,” the complaint states.
     The lawsuit claims the bill – and the method in which it was passed – violates the Ohio Constitution, which requires that “every bill shall be considered by each house on three different days,” referred to as “the three reading rule.”
     “By passing the bill without adherence to the three reading rule, the plaintiffs, the legislators, the citizens of the State of Ohio, and particularly the citizens of Youngstown, Ohio, were deprived of the opportunity to discuss and consider the merits of the bill, communicate regarding the merits of the bill, and have the press examine and opine on the merits of the bill,” the complaint states.
     The Youngstown Board of Education is joined by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Ohio Council 8, the Youngstown Education Association, the Ohio Education Association and Jane Haggerty.
     The lawsuit was filed against the State of Ohio, the Ohio Department of Education and Richard Ross, state superintendent of public instruction, in Franklin County, Ohio court.
     The plaintiffs seek an injunction preventing enforcement of the bill and a court declaration that HB 70 violates the state’s constitution. They are represented by James Roberts of Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld and Lodge in Youngstown.

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