Law & Courts

Ohio Court Declares End To DeRolph School Funding Case

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 28, 2003 | Corrected: February 23, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Corrected: Robert A. Gardner is the Republican who chairs the education committee of the state Senate. We accidentally misspelled his name in this story.

The Ohio Supreme Court has issued its final decision on a state school funding case that has persisted for 12 years.

In the May 16 ruling, the court reiterated its judgment in several previous rulings that the system for financing education violates the state constitution, and that the duty to fix the problem lies with the legislature. (“Ohio Court Rejects State School Aid System,” Jan. 8, 2003.)

But in its 5-2 final ruling, the court also made clear that the long-running case was over—that neither the state high court itself or “any other court” has jurisdiction over the case. That declaration leaves the plaintiffs no mechanism, at least as far as the court is concerned, to ensure that the current unconstitutional system is fixed.

“It’s like the court said, ‘You are guilty but you are free,’” said William L. Phillis, the executive director of the Columbus-based Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, which filed the lawsuit against the state, called DeRolph v. State of Ohio, in 1991.

He said the chances that the legislature would fix the current funding system were slim now, given that the legislature didn’t fundamentally fix the system during the years that the court maintained jurisdiction over the case.

The final ruling was a response to an effort by the plaintiffs to get a lower-court judge—Perry County Common Pleas Court Judge Linton D. Lewis Jr.— to supervise a conference on how the legislature would comply with the supreme court’s judgment.

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro asked the supreme court to deny that request. In its final ruling, the court clarified that indeed the case was over and no further action regarding it should occur in any state court.

Not in Vain

Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, recognizes that he and the legislature have the responsibility to make sure the state’s education system is “thorough and efficient,” as required by the Ohio Constitution, said Ann Husted, his communications director.

But “on the same level,” she added, “the governor has the constitutional responsibility to balance the budget.” The budget for fiscal 2004 is now being debated in the state Senate.

Sen. Robert Garner, a Republican who is the chairman of the Senate education committee, said the legislature has already done a lot in the past 10 years to address the problems with the funding system.

He argued, for example, that per-pupil funding for Ohio public school students has more than doubled since the DeRolph lawsuit was filed. And while from 1954 to 1997, the state spent only $174 million on school facilities, it has spent $3.6 billion on such facilities since 1997. “The urgency is over,” Mr. Garner said.

Mr. Phillis, whose group represents the plaintiffs, cited some of the same figures to demonstrate that the plaintiffs had not undertaken the DeRolph lawsuit in vain.

The state would never have increased its spending on school facilities to the extent that it did if his coalition hadn’t filed the lawsuit, Mr. Phillis asserted.

In addition, he said, the case caused the state to clarify that the legislature’s obligation to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to Ohio’s schoolchildren meant providing a high-quality education, not simply keeping school doors open.

However, he said, the state never did what the court had ordered it to do in its decisions.

“There’s been no structural change in the funding,” Mr. Phillis said. He added that lawmakers have failed to tie the funding level with the actual cost of providing a high-quality education.

Events

Mathematics Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Breaking the Cycle: How Districts are Turning around Dismal Math Scores
Math myth: Students just aren't good at it? Join us & learn how districts are boosting math scores.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Reframing Behavior: Neuroscience-Based Practices for Positive Support
Reframing Behavior helps teachers see the “why” of behavior through a neuroscience lens and provides practices that fit into a school day.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Oxford School Shooter's Parents Were Convicted. Holding District Liable Could Be Tougher
The conviction of parents in the Oxford, Mich., case expanded the scope of responsibility, but it remains difficult to hold schools liable.
12 min read
Four roses are placed on a fence to honor Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Tate Myre, 16, and Justin Shilling, 17, the four teens killed in last week's shooting, outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
Four roses are placed on a fence outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., honor Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Tate Myre, 16, and Justin Shilling, 17, the four teens killed in the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting at the school.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
Law & Courts Oklahoma Supreme Court Weighs 'Test Case' Over the Nation's First Religious Charter School
The state attorney general says the Catholic-based school is not permitted under state law, while supporters cite U.S. Supreme Court cases.
5 min read
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is pictured Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, during an interview in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, pictured in February, argued April 2 before the state supreme court against the nation's first religious charter school.
Sue Ogrocki/AP
Law & Courts When Blocking Social Media Critics, School Officials Have Protections, Supreme Court Says
The court said public officials' own pages may be "state action," but only when they are exercising government authority.
6 min read
An American flag waves in front of the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 2, 2020.
An American flag waves in front of the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 2, 2020.
Patrick Semansky/AP
Law & Courts Oklahoma Nonbinary Student's Death Shines a Light on Families' Legal Recourse for Bullying
Students facing bullying and harassment from their peers face legal roadblocks in suing districts, but settlements appear to be on the rise
11 min read
A photograph of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died a day after a fight in a high school bathroom, is projected during a candlelight service at Point A Gallery, on Feb. 24, 2024, in Oklahoma City. Federal officials will investigate the Oklahoma school district where Benedict died, according to a letter sent by the U.S. Department of Education on March 1, 2024.
A photograph of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died a day after a fight in a high school restroom, is projected during a candlelight service at Point A Gallery, on Feb. 24, 2024, in Oklahoma City. Federal officials will investigate the Oklahoma school district where Benedict died, according to a letter sent by the U.S. Department of Education on March 1, 2024.
Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP