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Greater Heights Academy v. Zelman

July 28, 2006

GREATER HEIGHTS ACADEMY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DR. SUSAN TAVE ZELMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Algenon L. Marbley

Magistrate Norah M. King

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint, which alleges that Defendants violated 42 U.S.C § 1983. Defendants, Dr. Susan Tave Zelman, Paolo A DeMaria, and Todd L. Hanes (collectively, "Defendants"), urge that Plaintiffs, community schools operating under Chapter 3314 of the Ohio Revised Code, do not state a cognizable claim against them under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiffs, Greater Heights Academy ("Greater Heights") and W.C. Cupe Community School ("W.C. Cupe"), are community schools operating under Chapter 3314 of the Ohio Revised Code. As community schools, Plaintiffs are authorized to receive state funds, on a per pupil basis, to operate their schools because they educate students who otherwise would attend traditional public schools in Cleveland and Columbus.

Under its funding procedure, the Ohio Department of Education (the "ODE") requires community schools to submit their enrollment data to the ODE using an Internet-based reporting system, whereupon the reported data is used to determine the amount of payment the ODE makes to the community school. The public funds the ODE gives to community schools is money that otherwise would have gone to the traditional public school districts where each community school student resides. Therefore, before the ODE grants those public funds to community schools pursuant to Ohio Revised Code § 3314.08, it provides the affected traditional public school district an opportunity to object to, or "flag," the funding of any particular student if the district claims that the community school has not provided a valid basis to receive the ODE funds for that student.*fn1 Once a student has been flagged by the public school district, the ODE will not issue payment to the community school for that student unless the flag is subsequently removed by the traditional public school district, or by the ODE after an investigation.*fn2

According to Plaintiffs, on May 23, 2006, after Plaintiff Greater Heights had submitted their enrollment data to the ODE, the Cleveland Municipal School District flagged a number of students on Greater Heights' list, resulting in an automatic denial of the ODE's payment of $103,969.07 to Greater Heights for those flagged students. Similarly, the Columbus City School District flagged a number of students on Plaintiff W.C. Cupe's list, resulting in a denial of over $30,000 payment to W.C. Cupe. Both community schools maintain that they need the ODE funds to continue their operations.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed a complaint in federal district court (the "Complaint") against Defendants, Dr. Susan Tave Zelman, the Superintendant of Public Instruction for the State of Ohio, Paolo A. DeMaria, the Associate Superintendant for the Center for School finance of the ODE, and Todd L. Hanes, the Executive Director of the ODE's Office of Community Schools, acting in their official capacities. The Complaint alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In particular, Plaintiffs claim that the ODE's funding procedure deprives them of procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs are precluded from alleging a Fourteenth Amendment claim against the State of Ohio. Plaintiffs filed a Memorandum Contra, and Defendants filed a Reply Memorandum. This matter now is ripe for decision.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Defendants mistakenly characterize their Motion to Dismiss as one pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which challenges Plaintiffs' standing to bring their claims. The Court finds that Defendants' Motion should be analyzed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because it challenges the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' allegations. See South Macomb Disposal Auth. v. Township of Washington, 790 F.2d 500, 502 n.7 (6th Cir. 1986) ("Whether a plaintiff is a 'person' within the meaning of section 1983 is a separate question from whether that plaintiff has standing to ...


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