To the editor:

Some anti-public school folks in Ohio have a campaign in progress that the current egregiously flawed system of school funding had been declared constitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

They cite the Ohio History Connection document – DeRolph v. State of Ohio – as evidence. That document includes a statement that is completely antithetical to the Court decisions in DeRolph.

Paragraph 5 of DeRolph IV states:

“To date, the principal legislative response to DeRolph I and DeRolph II has been to increase funding, which has benefited many schoolchildren. However, the General Assembly has not focused on the core constitutional directive of DeRolph I: “a complete systematic overhaul” of the school-funding system. Id., 78 Ohio St.3d at 212, 677 N.E.2d 733. Today we reiterate that that is what is needed, not further nibbling at the edges. Accordingly, we direct the General Assembly to enact a school-funding scheme that is thorough and efficient, as explained in DeRolph I, DeRolph II, and the accompanying concurrences.”

The Court in DeRolph IV released jurisdiction of the case. Subsequently, the Coalition filed a motion in Perry County Common Pleas Court requesting a compliance conference, which would require the state to reveal its plans to meet the constitutional demand of a thorough and efficient system. The state went directly to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Court determined that the trial court judge had no jurisdiction of the case in DeRolph V. This decision in no way affects the constitutionality issue.

In fact, paragraph 33 of DeRolph V reaffirms the system is unconstitutional:

“Therefore, our DeRolph IV mandate forbids Judge Lewis and the common pleas court to exercise further jurisdiction in this matter. We never held in DeRolph II or IV that Judge Lewis’s 1999 remedial order or, for that matter, the DeRolph plaintiffs’ mandatory-injunction claim would be revived when we relinquished our jurisdiction. The duty now lies with the General Assembly to remedy an educational system that has been found by the majority in DeRolph IV to still be unconstitutional.”

Some anti-public school groups are stating that the school funding system is constitutional, using the statement in and using the Ohio History Connection document, which erroneously states that the Ohio Supreme Court overturned previous rulings, as evidence.

The Ohio History Connection was requested to correct the error. An email message from the Ohio History Connection, dated March 25, 2021 states:

Hello Mr. Phillis,

Thank you for your email regarding our Ohio History Central entry on the DeRolph v. State of Ohio case. I have removed the sentence you cited. We appreciate you sending documentation from the court case to demonstrate how this statement was made in error. Please let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s anything else I can do to help.

All best,
Kristen Newby
Digital Projects Coordinator
Ohio History Connection
800 East 17th Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43211-2474

We appreciate the Ohio History Connection’s timely response to our request to correct the erroneous statement.

William L. Phillis
Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding