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Cops and Courts

Youngstown board files reply in HB70 case; oral arguments next

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Youngstown School Board’s case against House Bill 70 pushes forward, with the district filing its reply brief to the state Monday.

The appellant reply is the last merit brief filed before oral arguments are scheduled, per the court’s Rules of Practice.

The School Board continues to argue the way the legislation was quickly amended and passed violates the three-reading rule. The state’s Feb. 25 appellees merit brief asserts the assembly complied with the three-reading rule as the amendment did not change the root purpose of the bill, which was to improve underperforming schools.

Youngstown’s reply states the state does not want citizens to see how laws are made or give them time to weigh in.

In its reply, the School Board writes: “The state’s suggestion that the court look only at the final provisions of Am. Sub. HB No. 70 and ignore the enactment procedure would require the court to turn a blind eye to a months-long effort by the Governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Education to secretly draft (HB 70) and have the legislature propose and pass it in one day — the last day of the legislative session, so that there would be only a tightly restricted, one-day opportunity for debate or public input on the legislation.”

The reply argues the three-reading rule is not dependent on the one-subject rule — which states bills cannot contain legislation with “no discernable, practical, rational or legitimate reasons for combining the provisions into one act.” The amendment to House Bill 70 added provisions for Academic Distress Commissions to a bill originally creating community learning centers and “vitally altered” the bill, triggering the three-reading rule, according to the latest brief.

The reply argues the appointment of a CEO with control of a district violates the Ohio Constitution by usurping power from the locally elected school board.

“If this court adopts the State’s argument and holds that school boards retain some power, despite the sweeping language of (HB 70), endless litigation will ensue and the courts will be left to divine what those powers are. This will entangle school boards and chief executive officers in costly and time-consuming litigation — certainly not a result the General Assembly intended when it gave chief executive officers ‘complete operational, managerial and instructional control’ over a school district.”

Accepted by the Ohio Supreme Court in October, the outcome of Youngstown’s appeal would set precedent for Lorain and East Cleveland, which also are under state takeover. Both districts’ school boards and other associations have submitted “friend of the court” briefs in support of Youngstown School Board’s case.

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

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