Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ohio Department of Education not final decision maker of whether an organization is eligible to sponsor charter school, Supreme Court of Ohio rules

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that the Ohio Department of Education does not have the final say as to whether an organization is "education-oriented" and thus capable of sponsoring a charter school.

In that case, the Brookwood Presybeterian Church had applied to ODE in order to sponsor a charter or "community" school. The ODE, after reviewing the application, denied the request, finding that the organization was not "education-oriented" and thus ineligible to sponsor a school. The statute in question provides that decision's of the Ohio Department of Education in this matter are "final." Thus, when the plaintiff attempted to appeal the decision, both the trial court and the court of appeals held that ODE's decision was not subject to judicial review.

The legal question to be answered by the Supreme Court of Ohio was whether or not the word "final" meant "final and appealable" or that ODE had the right to make the final determination. In reading the provision in context with other provisions in the statute, the Court held, per Justice Pfeiffer, that the denial was subject to appeal by the common pleas court, pursuant to ORC 119.

Note: this does not mean that the plaintiff gets to sponsor a charter school; rather, the opinion merely states that the plaintiff can appeal the denial to the Court of Common Pleas.

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