Cincinnati Public Schools Blocked from Discriminating Against Charter and Private Schools

The 1851 Center halted Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) efforts to suppress competing charter and private schools with an important victory in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

In CPS v. Conners, Judge Robert P. Ruehlman ruled CPS’ policy of prohibiting already sold and unused public school buildings from being used as private or charter schools violated state law. The 1851 Center litigated the case on behalf of the Theodore Roosevelt School, a Cincinnati charter school, and its owner Dr. Roger Conners, who was sued by Cincinnati Public Schools on the eve of the school’s August opening.

Dr. Conners purchased an unused school building located in Cincinnati’s Fairmount neighborhood, where all CPS schools are in academic emergency, and 80 percent of families are of minority status and live in poverty.

CPS sued to enforce a deed restriction prohibiting the use of previously-taxpayer-owned school buildings for use by a charter or private 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. The court agreed.

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

On July 6, Judge Ruehlman denied Cincinnati Public Schools’ desperate last-ditch effort to derail Theodore Roosevelt School’s opening, 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 revealed 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. Moreover, the 1851 Center offered CPS an opportunity to settle before it initiated the litigation against Dr. Conners it eventually lost. The amount spent by CPS does not include the fees to be paid for the pending appeal.

Source: 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, July 22, 2010

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