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East Cleveland School Board lawsuit against Ohio Department of Education on hold

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The East Cleveland Board of Education's case against the state will halt until the Ohio Supreme Court makes a decision in another case concerning the state takeover of struggling school districts.

Passed in 2015 as House Bill 70, initially coined the "Youngstown Plan," the law allowed the state to take over three failing school districts: Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland. Shortly after the law was passed and Youngstown was taken over, its school board filed a lawsuit against the state. East Cleveland followed suit after its takeover shortly after the start of the 2018-19 school year. Lorain's Board of Education has filed briefs of support in both cases, as the outcomes in those lawsuits can affect its district, which also is in state takeover.

On Monday, East Cleveland Board of Education and the state filed a joint motion to stay, or pause, the lawsuit until the Ohio Supreme Court makes a decision in Youngstown Board of Education's suit. Youngstown's suit, an appeal taken up in 2018 by the state's highest court, focuses on whether or not the way House Bill 70 was passed violated the "three-reading rule," potentially making it unconstitutional.

The East Cleveland school board's case focused on the report card grades used to place it under state control and the constitutionality of the bill. According to the filing, the Franklin County Court previously dismissed part of Count I — relating to the district's equivalency grades for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years — while the other two counts regarding the constitutionality of the law were stayed.

The filing notes at that time the only active claim was whether the data for the district supported it receiving an overall F on the 2018 state report card, which is what sent it under state control. The board filed a motion to dismiss the report card grade claim Monday.

The court has 30 days from the state Supreme Court's decision to either move to dismiss East Cleveland's case or reinstate it while considering the impact of the Youngstown ruling.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Youngstown's case 9 a.m. Oct. 23 in Montpelier.

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