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Columbus schools fined $11 million by state over transportation issues

The Ohio Department of Education is issuing fines due to a provision in last year's budget bill.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus City Schools says they could have challenges getting students to school in the future because of an $11 million fine that the Ohio Department of Education is issuing the district over transportation issues.

Groveport Madison Schools was also issued a fine by the department; a spokesperson for the district didn’t want to give specifics, as they have pending litigation.

Groveport and CCS are two of five districts in the state a transportation expert says are being asked to pay up, but he says many across the state have been investigated.

Doug Palmer, the senior transportation consultant for the Ohio School Boards Association, said funding is issued every month to school districts for transportation.

“Funding is either based on student count or mileage, depending on what the district does and then they start paying that out each month,” Palmer said.

Palmer said ODE is issuing fines due to a provision in last year's budget bill that made the agency responsible for monitoring if school buses are getting where they need to be on time consistently -- that started last September. Palmer said it's called a "clawback."

“The state starts to take that back and that's why it's called a clawback because some of this money has already been given to the district and now they want it back,” Palmer said.

According to Palmer, ODE is monitoring school districts in ten-day increments. If schools aren't providing adequate transportation, then the district is asked to return the money. CCS was asked to return $11 million. In the district's complaint that they filed in court, they say ODE is asking for $7 million for the first semester and $4 million for the first few months of the second semester. 

In the complaint, the district also said ODE began "withholding funding."

The court granted the district a temporary restraining order, which means ODE is not allowed to withhold funding until the court has made a decision about the $11 million.

10TV reached out to the district and a spokesperson said in a statement the district has challenges beyond its control that impact its ability to get students to school.

The district says ODE's idea of what is considered consistent transportation “represents a death knell for school transportation, particularly for a large district like CCS that routes more than 36,000 students each day."

Columbus City Schools will be a part of a hearing in exactly two weeks about this.

10TV also reached out to the Ohio Board of Education, via phone and email, and has not heard back.

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