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Lorain teachers union files brief in HB 70 lawsuit

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LORAIN — The Lorain Education Association is the latest to sign on to a lawsuit against House Bill 70.

The district’s teachers union filed an amicus curiae, along with its East Cleveland counterparts, Friday in the Youngstown Schools Board of Education’s case against the Ohio Department of Education. The “friend of the court” brief allows a party directly affected by a court case but not included in the original suit to lend its support to either side.

The original lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in August 2015, challenged House Bill 70 as unconstitutional. While the 10th District Court of Appeals ruled in June against the school board, the Ohio Supreme Court accepted Youngstown’s appeal Oct. 24. The Supreme Court’s ruling could set a precedent for other districts under state mandate.

The appeal alleges the General Assembly violated the three-reading rule when passing House Bill 70, as the original bill authorized the creation of community learning centers in underperforming buildings. In roughly 24 hours, the bill was amended to add provisions for creating academic distress commissions and CEO takeovers of failing school districts.

While the 10th District Appellate Court ruled the bill did not violate the three-reading rule as the original subject — improving performance in failing districts — did not change, the appeal states the purpose of the two bills were “antithetical.” While the original community learning center-centric bill would have kept district control at the local level, the amendment to HB 70 paved the way for state takeovers, removing local control.

Citing previous case law, the brief claims the passage of the bill violated the three-reading rule as it was introduced, amended and adopted all in the same day, with no hearings, open debates or opportunity for constituents to weigh in on the issue. It contends two-thirds of officials did not suspend the three-reading rule requirements, but took “hasty action” leading to the “ill-advised amendment” drafted through conspiratorial meetings in the months prior.

“Rather, secret meetings were conducted by State officials and a group of Youngstown business people drafted the amendments that eventually became Am. Sub. HB 70. This group conducted secret meetings over a nine-month period that completely excluded the public,” it states.

The amended bill, signed by Gov. John Kasich in July 2015, was originally referred to as the Youngstown Plan, but was later applied to Lorain and East Cleveland. Other districts could face state takeover as early as next school year.

The Lorain School Board filed an amicus curiae just after the Supreme Court agreed to take the case, along with the East Cleveland School Board, the Ohio School Boards Association, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio Federation of Teachers and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.

The Lorain Education Association could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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