The Ohio Ed Board Fights Back: Taking Legal Shots at a Shady New Education Agency

Seven members of the Ohio State Board of Education have lawyered up and slapped the state of Ohio and Governor Mike DeWine with a hot-off-the-press lawsuit. Why? Because they claim the recent changes enacted by the Republican-run state legislature are basically a slap in the face of the state constitution.

Here’s the tea: The state budget that passed in June quietly spawned a whole new education agency called the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). Yep, we’re just as puzzled by that name as you are. Even sketchier, this agency has its leader handpicked by the governor. Remember, this came into existence after Republican lawmakers failed to create the department through standalone legislation. Plan B? Sneak it into the budget, also known as House Bill 33, which then sailed through the legislature and got DeWine’s blessing. Sneaky much?

This kind of legislative maneuvering, or “logrolling” for the policy nerds out there, is constitutionally sketchy. Especially because Ohioans have had a direct say in education for more than 70 years. The lawsuit contends that the lawmakers pulled a fast one by jamming the new department into the budget bill, thus stomping all over decades of voter involvement in state education.

Now, let’s meet our justice-seeking heroes: Christina Collins, Teresa Fedor, Katie Hofmann, Tom Jackson, Meryl Johnson, Antoinette Miranda, and Michelle Newman. They’re out here asking for a halt on the new department and a court ruling to confirm that, yeah, this move was unconstitutional.

It’s not just about legal nuances; it’s about community voices. The board is supposed to be about direct representation; 11 of its 19 members are chosen by the people, who also help set the academic standards for the state. But this new budget? It just goes ahead and hands all that power directly to the governor’s office, which sounds a whole lot like consolidating power to us.

“We will not sit back and let stand such a brazen power-grab,” our plaintiff squad stated in a press release, going on to call out the move as “stripping parents, local school districts, and communities of their voices.”

Skye Perryman, of Democracy Forward, the group representing the seven in the lawsuit, took it a step further. She labeled the situation as a disturbing trend of “anti-democratic attacks on public education.” From Florida to Ohio, extremist factions are using education as a tool to undermine democracy, she noted.

So, what’s next? Stay tuned. The courts are getting involved, and democracy could be on trial, quite literally. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that justice, in its academic robe, prevails.