COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Ohio Board of Education met Tuesday – but you wouldn’t know by looking at the Department of Education’s website.

Despite the board president’s indefinite postponement of the meeting, 11 board members convened Tuesday morning as scheduled while an overhaul of the state’s education agency remains in limbo. To not do so would be a violation of constitutional mandate and a judge’s order, the board members wrote in a letter to the board president.

“We have a legal obligation to continue to fulfill our statutory duties in regular order as members of the State Board of Education, while the pending litigation is under a temporary restraining order,” the letter reads.

Without the president’s call for a meeting, there was no live broadcast, no agenda publicly available and no department staff on site. In a response to the board member’s letter, President Paul LaRue wrote that he and special counsel believe that “legal questions regarding the temporary restraining order remain under further review.”

An overhaul of the Department of Education that would transfer most of the board’s powers to a governor-appointed position has been halted by a court order while a lawsuit on the changes’ constitutionality proceeds. The lawsuit, originally filed by seven board members and refiled by two parents on the state board and a local school board, contends that the changes to the Department of Education violate the constitutional requirement of having the education board oversee the agency.

The overhaul was slated to take effect Oct. 3 – and it somewhat did, despite the temporary restraining order. The day the judge extended the temporary block, Gov. Mike DeWine held a news conference to announce some changes, including the establishment of the Department of Education and Workforce, would proceed as planned.

DeWine said last week that other aspects of the overhaul, including the transfer of board power, would remain on pause until the judge decides whether to grant a more indefinite block.

To meet Tuesday, the board temporarily voted member Brendan Shea to serve as chair. The board also suspended multiple rules, including a rule that the board president must set the agenda. 

No board leadership attended the meeting. Members drafted a slate of questions for LaRue and other board leaders and expect a response by Oct. 29. Those questions include:

  • Why weren’t State Board of Education members consulted before postponing the meeting?
  • Did Board Leadership advise ODE staff not to attend and support this meeting? If so, why?
  • Who issued the directive that the Ohio Channel not record and make available the Oct. 10 meeting of the State Board of Education and by what authority?

“These questions should be answered, these are stopping us in our tracks right now,” Shea said. “No one knows who reports to who. We can’t even get a nameplate around the table. We were told by the Chief of Staff that she had instructed staff not to provide any assistance. So, we needed to take concrete steps to force action.”