Plaintiffs claim Ohio legislators and the Governor’s office broke the law by sneaking  provisions that restructure education governance and oversight in Ohio into a budget bill

Columbus, OH Today, seven members of the State Board of Education in Ohio – Christina Collins; Teresa Fedor; Katie Hofmann; Tom Jackson; Meryl Johnson; Antoinette Miranda, and Michelle Newman – filed a lawsuit against the State of Ohio and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for passing the budget bill HB 33 in violation of the Ohio Constitution. 

The complaint, filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County, alleges that by shifting core responsibility for education governance and oversight in Ohio away from the Board, the “Education Takeover Rider” violates Article VI, Section 4 of the Ohio Constitution. The suit seeks to obtain a temporary restraining order to stop the changes from going into effect, and then preliminarily and permanently enjoin enforcement of, and declare facially unconstitutional and void, the Education Takeover Rider. 

Additionally, plaintiffs argue that Education Takeover Rider violates two additional constitutional provisions– the single subject rule and the three-reading rule. The Ohio Constitution contains various safeguards to ensure that the legislative process is transparent and democratic – including prohibiting any single bill from addressing more than one subject so legislators are unable to sneak unpopular pieces of legislation into unrelated, must-pass bills. Even though it had almost no impact on the budget, and after it was unable to pass the Ohio House on its own, the Education Takeover Rider was unconstitutionally attached to the budget bill and rammed through at the last moment to ensure it would pass.

The plaintiffs are represented by Democracy Forward Foundation and Ulmer & Berne LLP. 

“The Ohio legislature and governor know that the people of Ohio value transparency, accountability, and a system of education removed from politics. And yet, in violation of the Ohio Constitution, they snuck into the must-pass budget bill an entire education governance overhaul that strips parents, local school districts, and communities of their voices and gives that power to the governor,” Plaintiffs Christina Collins; Teresa Fedor; Katie Hofmann; Tom Jackson; Meryl Johnson; Antoinette Miranda, and Michelle Newman said. “For decades, parents in Ohio have gone to the voting booth to exercise their right to elect representatives empowered to advocate for them at the state level. We will not sit back and let stand such a brazen power-grab that flies in the face of Ohio residents who value local input and control over their children’s education.”

“HB 33 is a prime example of the broader movement by extremist-controlled governors’ mansions and legislatures to deprive communities of meaningful representation. In Ohio, these actions are contrary to more than seven decades of non-partisan control by directly elected representatives,” said Skye Perryman, President & CEO of Democracy Forward. “The trend of anti-democratic attacks on public education in states across the country, from Florida to Ohio, is a key tactic in the extremist playbook to undermine our democracy at any cost. And when they break the law, we will use all the legal tools we have to fight back.”   

“Legislators are not above the law and must be held accountable.  The Education Takeover Rider seeks to take power from the people’s elected representatives and place it in the hands of a single political appointee.  The rider and the way it was passed violate the Ohio Constitution in multiple ways—including by gutting the Ohio State Board of Education, which was created by constitutional amendment, and by impermissibly logrolling a statute that failed to garner sufficient support on its own into Ohio’s must-pass biennial budget bill,” said Amanda Martinsek, Partner at Ulmer & Berne LLP. “Now, more than ever, it is paramount that we fight to uphold the safeguards and processes that are fundamental to our democratic system.  And, in this case, that means preventing the unconstitutional Education Takeover Rider from going into effect.”