Endless Lawsuits, Yep That's For Me

Just a quick reminder of what the NH State Supreme Court has in store for us! Check out Ohio and the "DeRolph" case.

I know we in NH are a little behind the times when it comes to education extortion lawsuits but you have to remember our state supreme court had that unfortunate impeachment thing happen to them. It slowed them down a bit but it is clear they haven't learned anything from past experience or other states who are tangled up in this lawyers dream come true known as education funding. 

A DeRolph Chronology

May 9, 1991

The DeRolph case was filed in Perry County.

Oct. 25, 1993

The trial was heard in Perry County courts.

July 1, 1994

Judge Linton D. Lewis Jr. ruled Ohio's school-funding system unconstitutional. (Son of two educators)

Aug. 30, 1995

The 5th District Court of Appeals overturned Lewis' decision 2-1, after the State appealed the decision, claiming that the legislature should determine the level of funding. (NH has no appeals court)

Oct. 10, 1995

The Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, representing more than 500 of the state's 612 districts, appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

March 24, 1997

In a 4-3 vote, the Ohio Supreme Court overturned the appellate ruling, declaring the entire school funding system to be unconstitutional. They gave the General Assembly a year to overhaul the funding system and reduce the reliance on local property taxes.

Feb. 1, 1998

The legislature established a new basic-aid formula for state and local funding to school districts, phased in to reach $4,414 per student in 2002.

March 24, 1998

The Supreme Court's one-year deadline passes.

May 5, 1998

Ohio voters rejected a penny-on-the-dollar increase in the state sales tax to raise $1.1 billion a year, half for schools and half for property-tax relief. (by about 70%)

Feb. 26, 1999

Judge Lewis, in Perry County ruled that the legislature has not complied with the Supreme Court's order for a ''complete, systematic overhaul'' of school funding.

Nov. 16, 1999

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments relating to the State's appeal of Lewis' ruling.

May 11, 2000

The Supreme Court declared that the General Assembly has failed to fix the school-funding system.

May 30, 2001

The legislature increased funding to schools by $1.4 billion, boosting per-student state aid to $4,814 that fall and $4,949 the next year and providing parity aid to poorer districts to lessen disparities.

June 20, 2001

The Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether the latest legislative fix meets the court's mandate.

Sept. 6, 2001

In another 4-3 ruling, the court says the system remains unconstitutional but ordered a fix to bring it up to Ohio's ''thorough and efficient'' standard.

Sept. 17, 2001

Over objections of legislative leaders, Taft asked the court to reconsider its latest ruling.

Dec. 13, 2001

The court appointed mediator Howard S. Bellman to negotiate a settlement in the case. (where we are now)

March 21, 2002

Bellman notified the court that mediation failed.

December 11, 2002

The court, by a vote of 4-3, ruled that Ohio's school-funding system remains unconstitutional and orders lawmakers to fix it, giving no deadline and relinquishing its jurisdiction in the matter. "Unconstitutional.''

May 16, 2003

The Ohio Supreme Court blocked any further action in Ohio courts.

August 14, 2003

The Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear the case on the procedural point of whether there can be a right with no legal remedy

October 20, 2003

The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case, effectively ending the DeRolph litigation.

The system remains unconstitutional. (That was then, this is NOW)...........

Democrats dust off old federal suit in Ohio school funding battle

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Scott Stephens

Plain Dealer Reporter

Thirty-nine Democrats in the state legislature tried to breathe life Monday into the seemingly moribund court battle to change the way Ohio pays for the education of 1.8 million public-school children.

Their vehicle: an updated version of a mostly forgotten federal lawsuit. The suit, filed in 1991, claimed Ohio was violating the state constitution and federal disability laws by failing to provide a "thorough and efficient" education for children with disabilities.

The federal lawsuit was shelved in favor of an action filed in state court by low-wealth school districts that challenged the funding system on behalf of all students.

That case, the landmark DeRolph v. Ohio, resulted in four Ohio Supreme Court rulings that concluded Ohio was too dependent on local property taxes to pay for its schools and should have a "complete systemic overhaul" of its funding system.

Although the level of school funding increased, no such overhaul took place. After the state court issued its fourth and final ruling in the DeRolph case three years ago, the federal case was allowed to go forward. Last year, an amended version of the complaint filed by the Ohio Legal Rights Service asked the federal court to enforce the DeRolph order and to overhaul the entire system.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Democrats argued that the state is moving backward on school funding by diverting money to charter schools and by increasing the dependence on local school tax issues.

"We've actually taken steps to make it more unconstitutional," said Sen. Marc Dann, a Liberty Township lawmaker who filed the brief on behalf of fellow Democrats.

State officials are seeking dismissal of the federal lawsuit on several grounds, including the argument that Ohio education officials defer to federal authorities on special education. Gov. Bob Taft and Republican legislative leaders have also pointed out that during Taft's tenure, education funding has increased 33 percent.

Judge John Holschuh is expected to rule on the dismissal motion soon. Meanwhile, Democrats maintain the state is failing poor, minority and special-education children.

"We frankly think it's unconscionable that the Republican-led Senate, House and governor have not taken care of the least among us," Senate Minority Leader C.J. Prentiss of Cleveland said.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

sstephens@plaind.com, 216-999-4827