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More districts join lawsuit against House Bill 70

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COLUMBUS — More school boards are joining Youngstown’s fight in the Ohio Supreme Court against House Bill 70.

The Ohio School Boards Association, Canton School Board and East Cleveland School Board all filed an amicus curiae Tuesday in support of Youngstown School Board’s appellate 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.

East Cleveland Schools is the latest to be subject to the law, originally dubbed “The Youngstown Plan.” Canton Schools could see state takeover by the 2020-21 school year, if its state report card scores do not improve, according to a statement released by its superintendent earlier this year.

Canton is one of 14 districts, as of September, finding themselves in the three-year process leading up to the state takeover outlined in House Bill 70, according to its amicus filing

The Ohio School Boards Association, or OSBA, is a nonprofit serving almost all of the 713 district boards in the state, according to its filing. It provides informational, advocacy, policy, consulting and analysis services and has adopted a platform opposing legislation that has not been “thoroughly and properly vetted and heard by both chambers of the General Assembly,” according to its amicus brief filing.

All three amicus briefs support the original suit’s complaint that the Amended Substitute House Bill 70 was changed last-minute to strip local control from struggling districts.

“The original bill was intended to provide assistance to buoy struggling public school districts,” Canton School Board wrote, “… however the General Assembly’s eleventh-hour amendments turned HB 70 into a draconian seizure of school districts by those with no personal state in a school district’s progress.”

The original lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in August 2015, challenged House Bill 70 as unconstitutional, as it violated the three-readings rule, among other provisions. 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.

Youngstown School Board of Education also filed an appellants’ merit brief, further outlining its reason for the fight against the bill.

The brief summarizes the events that led to the passage of an amendment to HB 70. It alleges secrecy among representatives and local business officials in the months leading up to the amendment’s last minute passage in June 2015.

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


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