Ohio Supreme Court Reviewing Whether Ohio Public Policy Favors School Choice, Prevents Cincinnati from Shutting Down Charter and Private Schools

Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Cincinnati Public Schools v. Conners on February 7, 2011.  To view oral arguments, click here. In this critical matter, the 1851 Center represents Dr. Roger Conners, operator of Theodore Roosevelt Public Charter School, a charter serving over 250 underprivileged children in Cincinnati’s downtrodden Fairmount neighborhood. 

Cincinnati Public Schools’ have a policy of prohibiting the use of unused former public school buildings by charter schools and private schools. Theodore Roosevelt School, in Cincinnati, had purchased an unused school building located in the Fairmount neighborhood, where the state-run public schools are in academic emergency status, and 80 percent of families are minorities and live in poverty.

CPS sued Dr. Conners, attempting to enforce its deed restriction and shut down Theodore Roosevelt School. The 1851 Center asserted such a restriction is void by Ohio’s public policy in favor of school choice, and cheats taxpayers of sales revenue from the buildings.

Both the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and Appellate Court ruled in favor of Dr. Conners, affirming the following: CPS’s deed restriction is void due to Ohio’s public policy in favor of transferring taxpayer-owned school buildings to community schools; statewide public policy is in favor of effectuating parental choice and educational opportunity through community schools; and Theodore Roosevelt is entitled to retain possession of the school and continue its operation.

“Our expectation is that the Supreme Court will decide to uphold a landmark ruling in favor of school choice in Ohio, and against adversarial school districts who attempt to block alternative schools’ right to exist,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “Deed restrictions like the one struck down in this case were devised simply to stop new charter schools from opening in Cincinnati, so that CPS could retain students and protect its state funds. In its brief, CPS compares itself to a ‘gas station’ or ‘hotel’ that has a right to use hardball tactics against its competition. It seems to have forgotten that it’s a public school that exists to educate children, rather than amass revenue.”

Joining the 1851 Center in defending school choice, as amicus parties, are the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Black Alliance for Educational Opportunities, School Choice Ohio, the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Joining Cincinnati Public Schools is the controversial government-funded lobbying organization The Ohio School Boards Association.