Ohio Supremes Narrowly Uphold Charter Schools:

Yesterday, in State ex rel. Ohio Congress of Parents & Teachers v. State Board of Education, the Ohio Supreme Court narrowly rejected a series of constitutional challenges to charter schools. Voting 4-3, the Ohio Supremes held that the state legislature did not violate the Ohio state constitution when it enacted legislation authorizing the operation of charter schools, aka “community schools.”

Among other things, the plaintiffs alleged that charter schools violated the “Thorough and Efficient Clause” in Section 2, Article VI of the state constitution. This clause provides:

The general assembly shall make such provisions, by taxation, or otherwise, as, with the income arising from the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.
In the past, the Ohio Supreme Court had cited this provision as a basis for holding unconstitutional Ohio’s reliance upon property taxes to supplement educational funding because it results in funding disparities across school districts.

In an opinion written by Justice Lanzinger, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the constitutional challenges, and held that the state legislature “has the legislative authority and latitude to set the standards and requirements for common schools, including different standards for community schools.” The majority further observed:

The Ohio Community-Schools Act was drafted with the intent that parental choice and sponsor control would hold community schools accountable, in a fashion similar to traditional school management. In exchange for enhanced flexibility, community schools face heightened accountability to parents and sponsors. Either can threaten shutdown, sponsors by suspending operations . . . and parents by withdrawing their children. . . . Traditional schools, on the other hand, may not be shut down no matter how poorly they perform (although they will face decreased funding.
The majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Moyer and Justices Lundberg Stratton and O’Connor. Justices Resnick and Pfeifer dissented on the merits, while Justice O’Donnell dissented on the grounds that the appeal had been improvidently accepted.