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DeWine says court order will stop some of Ohio's K-12 overhaul, but not all of it

The Ohio Department of Education in downtown Columbus
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
The Ohio Department of Education in downtown Columbus

The Ohio Department of Education is no more as of midnight, according to Gov. Mike DeWine.

But he said part of the planned revamping of that agency will go forward, even though seven Democratic state school board members had won a court order last month to stop that from happening.

DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted held an unusual evening press conference following a hearing on the court order Monday afternoon. DeWine said at that event that the state budget eliminated the Department of Education at midnight Tuesday.

"It goes away because of the law that was passed by the General Assembly. And that old department dies at midnight," DeWine said. "So there is certainly a potential for chaos. Questions such as who will send out the checks that go to our public schools across the state of Ohio? Who will make the determination about eligibility for school choice? And those are just two of the things that the Department, in fact, in fact, does."

DeWine said he won't violate the court order by naming a director of the new Department of Education and Workforce or transferring the state school board’s power over academic policy to it. But he said that new agency will be created to do the day-to-day statewide business of K-12 education in Ohio.

“I cannot let this situation fester. I cannot let this chaos actually happen," DeWine said.

One of the school board members who sued to keep the Department of Education is place said the move has created chaos.

“They've created this chaos because of their government overreach and not dealing with the real issues and the claims in the lawsuit," said state school board member Teresa Fedor, who is among the seven who sued to stop the overhaul.

"It seems to me like they're putting themselves above the law. The temporary restraining order is in effect until October 5," Fedor said. "And according to the witnesses in the hearing, the chief of staff at the Department of Education admitted she was not prepared for the temporary restraining order to continue and has done nothing to stop the transfer of the duties of the Board of Education."

In his press conference, Husted blasted the 19-member state board of education for not hiring a new state school superintendent. Chris Woolard is the interim superintendent, who replaced interim superintendent Stephanie Siddens. She took over after state school board member Steve Dackin was hired as superintendent, but resigned 11 days later after questions about the ethics of his hiring.

"We have been 105 weeks - 738 days - without a permanent superintendent of the state of Ohio. Right now, we're functioning with an interim state superintendent. This state school board, including the seven members who filed this lawsuit, have failed to provide that leadership," Husted said. "And this litigation should not stand in the way of Gov. DeWine's ability to appoint leadership and begin to build a stronger, more robust, more accountable system of education and workforce in the state of Ohio."

Fedor pushed back on that argument.

"I've been a member of the board since January. I know what happened in the past. In the past is the past," Fedor said. "And let's remind the governor that he appoints eight members. The majority of the board are Republicans."

A filing deadline in the case is set for Wednesday.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.