Archives for March 2011

Victory: “1851 Center Amendment” added to Senate Bill 5

Government employees would no longer have to “opt out” of making political contributions to unions, state government will no longer transfer political contributions to unions.

The Ohio House of Representatives yesterday amended Senate Bill 5 to include the “1851 Center Amendment,” a provision that would prevent state and local government from facilitating transfer of political contributions from government employees to their unions.

House Republicans added the amendment in response to the 1851 Center’s publication of “The Path Remains Clear for Ohio’s New Legislators to Separate Government Employment from Public Employee Union Politics ” released in late February.

In The Path Remains Clear, the 1851 Center shows that government unions are amongst the Top 20 contributors to political candidates, trailing only traditional political organizations such as the Ohio Democratic and Republican Parties. The 1851 Center argues that state and local governments should level the political playing field in Ohio by discontinuing this taxpayer-provided service to union politics.

Ohio previously prohibited such automatic payroll deductions. In 1998, a state court of appeals struck the prohibition on First Amendment grounds. However, in 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court explained that such scrutiny is not appropriate: “while in some contexts the government must accommodate expression, it is not required to assist others in funding the expression of particular ideas, including political ones.”

In other states, similar laws have led to dramatic reductions in political contributions to unions from government employees. In Utah, after eliminating payroll deductions for government employees in 2001, the number of teachers contributing to their unions for political purposes fell from 68 percent to 6.8 percent of all teachers and PAC contributions plummeted.

Such laws also relieve workers of burdens associated with the political atmosphere often found in the unionized workplace. The history of unionism is replete with examples of threats, coercion, and intimidation directed at workers who do not agree with union goals, policies, or tactics. Between 2000 and 2007, the National Labor Relations Board received 1325 complaints of union-sponsored threats and 546 reports of harassment.

The Amendment to Senate Bill 5 reads:

No public employer shall agree to a provision that provides for the payroll deduction for any contributions to a political action committee using any other method than the method prescribed in sections 3517.082, 3517.09, and 3599.031 of the Revised Code.

Read The Path Remains Clear for Ohio's New Legislators to Separate Government Employment from Public Employee Union Politics in its entirety

March 30, 2011: WSPD AM 1370 Brian Wilson Show

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

The 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.  [Read more…]

Cincinnati Public Schools v. Conners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cincinnati Public Schools has a policy of prohibiting the use of vacant public school buildings by charter schools and private schools.

Historical Overview

Theodore Roosevelt School, in Cincinnati, had purchased an unused school building located in the Fairmount neighborhood, where all CPS schools are in academic emergency status and 80 percent of families are minorities and live in poverty. The school opened in August, 2010, serving 210 students and employing 45 staff members.

 CPS sued Dr. Conners, the operator of Theodore Roosevelt, attempting to enforce a deed restriction and shut down the 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 favors 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 to amass revenue.”

Partners in Action

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.

Timeline

February 7, 2011: Ohio Supreme Court hears Oral Arguments in Conners

 

The Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Cincinnati Public Schools v. Conners at 9:30a.m. on February 7, 2011. 

September 24, 2011: Ohio Supreme Court Will Review CPS v. Conners

The Ohio Supreme Court has granted certorari and will review this case. This will likely be the final resolution of the case.

March 11, 2011: Court of Appeals: CPS Deed Restrictions Against Charter and Private Schools Illegal 

Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy of prohibiting the sale of unused available public school buildings to charter schools and private schools is unlawful and must end, today ruled the Court of Appeals for the First District Court of Appeals, Hamilton County.  This decision further rebuffs CPS efforts to shut down Theodore Roosevelt Community School and others, and is a victory for charter and private school operators throughout the state.

CPS appealed after a victory by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law on behalf of Theodore Roosevelt Community School, a Cincinnati charter school CPS had sued to shut down.  The Court of Appeals decision, authored by Judge Sundermann, states: “We conclude that the trial court properly determined that the facilitation of community schools having access to classroom space was clear Ohio public policy. And the deed restriction that sought to prevent the use of the property for educational purposes was void as against this clear policy.”

The Court further stated:  “[w]e are not persuaded by CPS’s argument that the property was not ‘suitable’ for classroom use.  This argument is belied by the deed restriction itself, which allows the possibility that the restriction would not apply should CPS itself decide to use the property for school purposes in the future.”

This additional ruling exposing CPS to the loss of millions of dollars in funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), which requires that school districts follow all state rules related to charter schools, including heeding charter schools’ right of first refusal to purchase all property “suitable for use as classroom space,” in order to be eligible for OSFC funding.  The fate of this funding is still in dispute, in a second case brought by the 1851 Center and the Ohio Coalition for Quality Education, pending before Judge Ruehlman in Hamilton County.

The court’s ruling affirms:

  • CPS’s deed restriction is void due to Ohio’s public policy in favor of transferring taxpayer-owned school buildings to community schools;
  • CPS’s deed restriction is void because it is in derogation of a statewide public policy in favor of effectuating parental choice and educational opportunity through community schools;
  • Although the deed restriction is void, Theodore Roosevelt is entitled to retain possession of the school, and continue its operation; and
  • CPS school buildings with such prohibitive deed restrictions are suitable for use as classroom space.

October 14, 2010: Cincinnati Public Schools Continues Charter School Vendetta in Appellate Court 

On October 14, the 1851 Center filed its brief in response to Cincinnati Public Schools’ appeal of a trial court ruling invalidating its efforts to eliminate school choice options in Cincinnati’s poorest communities.

In May, Ohio’s school choice movement won a significant victory when Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Ruehlman ruled that Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) violated state law through its policy of prohibiting the sale of unused available public school buildings to charter and private schools.

The Theodore Roosevelt School opened in August 2010. However, CPS has appealed the case, now before the First Appellate District in Hamilton County. The school building was previously unused, and is located in the Fairmount neighborhood, where all CPS schools are in academic emergency, and 80 percent of families are of minority status and live in poverty.

CPS is attempting to enforce a deed restriction prohibiting the use of school buildings previously owned by CPS for use by a charter or private school. The school district likens itself to a private hotel or gas station that can prohibit “competitors” from acquiring its old buildings. However, those buildings are taxpayer-owned, and being sold at a considerable loss due to the deed restriction.

The 1851 Center countered that such a restriction is void by Ohio’s public policy in favor of school choice, and cheats taxpayers of sales revenue from the buildings. The trial court agreed with the 1851 Center.

“CPS is not a private business or individual: it is a taxpayer supported entity that should not target the state’s program of education, i.e. community schools, as ‘competing,’” the 1851 Center wrote in its filing with the appeals court.

The 1851 Center is joined by the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools (OAPCS), which has filed an amicus brief in the action.

“Securing adequate and affordable facilities remains one of the greatest challenges to Ohio’s charter schools,” OAPCS wrote in its amicus brief. “The Cincinnati Public School District’s attempt here to prevent a public school from operating where a different public school once existed unlawfully exacerbates these facilities challenges and, at the same time, needlessly prevents students from getting a public education at the school of their choice.

July 06, 2010: Cincinnati Public Schools Blocked from Discriminating Against Charter and Private Schools

On July 6, Judge Ruehlman denied CPS’s desperate last-ditch effort to derail Theodore Roosevelt School’s opening by denying CPS’ Motion to Stay. This clears the way for the school to open in August; area families have already enrolled over 200 children. The school will employ approximately 40 people.

A Public Records Request by the 1851 Center reveals that CPS has already paid its hand-picked law firm over $32,000 in Cincinnati taxpayers’ money for the case, at an average rate of approximately $200 per hour, and at times as much as $256 per hour.

This is quite a sum, considering that Dr. Conners only paid $30,000 for the school building and the 1851 Center offered CPS an opportunity to settle beforehand. In addition, the amount also does not include the fees yet to be paid for the pending appeal.

May 28, 2010: Common Pleas Court says Cincinnati Public Schools Violated State Law 

Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy of prohibiting the sale of unused available public school buildings to charter schools and private schools violates state law, yesterday ruled Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert P. Ruehlman. The judge issued the ruling immediately from the bench.

In his ruling, Judge Ruehlman called CPS’s deed restrictions anti-competitive and acknowledged that CPS was merely attempting to suppress competition from charter and other alternative schools, and thwart school choice for the parents and children of Cincinnati.

The ruling halts CPS’s restrictive practice and opens the district to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC). Last week, OSFC member State Rep. Kris Jordan moved to stop state facilities funding to CPS because of its purported violations. Jordan, prompted by the 1851 Center’s legal action against CPS, informed the commission the school district forfeited its statutory right to project funding because of repeated violations of state charter schools provisions. The court’s ruling bolsters Jordan’s assertion. Jordan’s letter to the commission is available here.

The court’s ruling affirms:

  • A contract term that violates public policy is void;
  • A contract term that hinders the purpose of a statute is void;
  • CPS’s deed restriction is void due to Ohio’s public policy in favor of transferring taxpayer-owned school buildings to community schools;
  • CPS’s deed restriction is void because it is in derogation of a statewide public policy in favor of effectuating parental choice and educational opportunity through community schools; and
  • Although the deed restriction is void, the conveyance must remain valid.

June 1, 2010: Cincinnati Enquirer: Judge Sets Charter School Precedent

March 11, 2011: Appellate Court’s ruling

October 14, 2010: OAPCS’s amicus brief

October 14, 2010: Appellate merit brief

March, 2010: Motion for judgment

March, 2010: Response to original complaint

New Publication on Public Employee Union Payroll Deductions for Campaign Contributions

On February 22, the 1851 Center released The Path Remains Clear for Ohio’s New Legislators to Separate Government Employment from Public Employee Union Politics, a Constitutional Viewpoint on automated payroll deductions for political contributions, a service provided to public employee union members and paid for by taxpayers.

From the Overview:

As the debate on the role of government employee unions in Ohio intensifies, citizens and lawmakers shouldn’t lose sight of the prominent role that these organizations play in Ohio politics and policymaking. Nor should they overlook an immediate solution to leveling the playing field in the state: simply stop subsidizing government workers’ political contributions to their employers.

  • Ohio’s top donors to Ohio legislative and statewide candidate campaigns are public employee unions.
  • The taxpayers of Ohio facilitate political donations to public employee unions by providing, at no cost to those unions, automated payroll deduction benefits.
  • Ending automated payroll deductions for union politics causes sharp decline in contributions to public employee unions, and puts these unions on equal footing with the private sector.
  • Ohio once banned automated political payroll deductions from all public employee paychecks, but through historical accident, that ban was stricken and never re-enacted.
  • Due to recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent, banning these political contributions is unquestionably constitutional.
  • 46 percent of Ohio’s government employees are unionized.
  • Public employee unions contribute to causes and candidates that increase the size and scope of government.
  • It is estimated that Ohio residents could pay 20.73% less in state income taxes if they weren’t paying for inflated government employee union wages.

Read the full publication