Jan 6, 2022 - News

Columbus City Schools, 100 other districts sue Ohio

Columbus school board member Eric Brown stands at a podium with a group of masked people and a "Vouchers Hurt Ohio" banner behind him
Columbus school board member Eric Brown speaks at a news conference Tuesday about a lawsuit the district filed regarding the state's EdChoice voucher program. Photo: Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP

Columbus City Schools (CCS) is lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the state of Ohio, alleging its voucher system that lets students attend private schools using public money is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: Eliminating or overhauling EdChoice would have widespread impact. Tens of thousands of Ohio students use vouchers based on the academic performance of their neighborhood school or family income.

  • The program is siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars away from public schools, with Columbus most impacted.
  • The lawsuit says the program is also re-segregating districts, as non-minority students disproportionately use them.

By the numbers: CCS is expected to lose 6,800 students and more than $40 million in the current school year to private school vouchers, the lawsuit states.

The other side: Opponents say the move is an attack on parent choice and point to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the state's initial voucher program in Cleveland.

What they're saying: "This issue is existential for public education in Ohio," Columbus school board member Eric Brown said at a Tuesday meeting.

  • Brown, a former Ohio Supreme Court chief justice, pointed to the Ohio Constitution allowing for a single system of public education, not multiple.
  • He anticipates the suit will be more significant than DeRolph v. State, a '90s case that declared Ohio's school funding method unconstitutional because it over-relied on property tax.

What's next: It'll likely take years to reach an outcome. DeRolph, filed in 1991, wasn't officially decided until 1997.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are trying to make all children eligible for vouchers.

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