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How Ohio’s overhaul of K-12 schooling became a flashpoint

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio’s K-12 education system has become the center of a legal battle between lawmakers and members of the State Board of Education.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine passed HB 33 in July as part of the state’s budget bill. The policy would transfer much of the power from the Board of Education, which includes publicly elected officials, to a governor-appointed director who would then appoint deputy directors.

Seven board members filed a lawsuit in September against its enforcement scheduled for Tuesday, prompting a preliminary injunction from a judge who called the transfer of power “unconstitutional.”

What the transfer of power would mean

The powers of the State Board of Education and the superintendent include adopting or developing standards for education and operations, issuing and revoking state charters, establishing or administering programs regarding scholarships, oversight, student achievement, and more.

When DeWine passed HB 33, the Ohio Department of Education would be renamed the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce and would become a cabinet-level office led by governor appointees who would take over the duties of the board of education — some of whom are publicly elected.

According to the Department of Education, this new agency will be responsible for primary, secondary, special, and career-technical education in Ohio.

“The current powers and duties of the State Board of Education will be divided between the State Board of Education and Department of Education and Workforce,” read a July statement from the Department of Education.

It continued, “But we want to assure you the members of the State Board and Department staff remain committed to student success and will continue to be available to support students, families, educators, schools and districts.”

The state board would retain power over hiring the superintendent, educator licenses, handling misconduct complaints, administering teacher and counselor evaluation systems, school district territory transfer disputes, overseeing the Teacher of the Year Program, and providing support to the Educator Standards board.

The Department of Education and Workforce will be responsible for the rest of the board’s former duties, according to the agency.

Controversy over the law

The original bill that this policy was a part of was held up in a House committee after being passed by the Senate.

In June, the Ohio Senate inserted a passage of the unpassed bill into a budget bill during a “last-minute conference committee” shortly before an impending deadline in which the budget bill needed to be passed, according to the complaint filed against the policy.

The passage, dubbed the “Education Takeover Rider” is more than 1,300 pages long and “was barely considered by the General Assembly” before it was passed on the last day of the fiscal year, board of education members say in their complaint against the passage.

The judge who issued the preliminary injunction said the “Education Takeover Rider” breaks several constitutional requirements for the passing of laws: bills must not contain more than one subject, must be considered by each house on three different days, and essentially eliminates the constitutionally created board.

“Nearly 70 years ago, the citizens of Ohio ratified a constitutional amendment that placed oversight and governance of Ohio’s education system in the hands of the newly created State Board of Education,” the lawsuit read.

“For more than half a century, the Board has operated as an independent body that is responsive and accountable to the Ohioans whose interests the Board’s members represent,” the lawsuit continued.

The plaintiffs also argued that the policy strips parents “of their voices in their children’s education and their rights to vote for and elect Board members who are authorized to perform substantive duties and responsibilities related to education policy for the betterment of their children’s education.”

ABC News has reached out to DeWine for comment.

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