(The Center Square) — An Ohio judge awarded three state school districts $42 million, saying the Ohio Department of Education unlawfully deprived funding.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Gina R. Russo ruled in favor of the Toledo, Dayton and Cleveland school districts following ODE’s decision in 2005 to change a funding methodology to one different from state law.
The three districts sued for money each believed it was entitled to if ODE had used state law but did not, according to a news release from the Toledo Public Schools. Russo ruled all three districts were found to have been unlawfully deprived of funding.
“By now, the students who lost valuable educational opportunities due to the reduced funding, that was the basis of the litigation, have most likely graduated from our district,” Romules Durant, CEO/superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, said. “However, the funding that flows from the court’s decision to our district will provide enhanced classroom learning for our current students. We are excited that our students and teachers will benefit from this decision.”
Four districts have now sued ODE and won based on the changed funding method. In 2006, the Cincinnati City School District sued and won a $6 million judgment. Dayton and the ODE negotiated a settlement for Dayton’s similar claims, and ODE paid Dayton $7 million.
Following the $13 million awards for Cincinnati and Dayton, the Ohio General Assembly enacted legislation that would partially shield ODE from more claims. Toledo, Dayton and Cleveland schools challenged the law and both the trial court and appeals court ruled the legislation was unconstitutional, but the Ohio Supreme Court sent the case back to Franklin County.
According to the news release, it is unclear if ODE plans to appeal the decision.
“The financial implications of continuing the litigation cannot be overestimated,” said Jim Hughes, attorney with Bricker and Eckler, which represents the plaintiffs. “Post-judgement interest awarded by the court on the entire award is accruing from the date of the decision at a rate of over $100,000 per month.”
J.D. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square