State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Steve Hambley (R-Brunswick) today introduced legislation, House Bill 127, to stop the state from taking over additional local school districts and privatizing local school boards. The legislation follows the controversial state takeovers of Youngstown City Schools, Lorain City Schools, and, most recently, East Cleveland City Schools. Ohio Department of Education reviews of these districts post-takeover show the districts are still failing to meet key state education standards.
“House Bill 70, which created state takeovers, was poorly designed, rushed into law, and done with zero public input,” said Rep. Smith. “School districts that were headed in the right direction have had their voices silenced, their students harmed, and their communities upended by a ‘Columbus’knows-best’ approach that has made the situation worse, not better.”
The passage of House Bill (HB) 70 in the 131st General Assembly fast-tracked the state takeover of local schools when districts receive three consecutive failing grades on state report cards. Under this law, failing districts are placed under the control of a state-run academic distress commission that installs an outside CEO to run the district instead of a superintendent or the publicly-elected school board.
Under the proposed legislation, school restructuring would return to its pre-HB 70 structure. However, the three districts already under state control would remain under state control.
Academic distress commissions remove locally-elected officials and create a bureaucratic system with little public accountability. Despite these drastic changes, the academically-challenged school districts under state control have not improved their grades on state report cards nor improved the learning environments within the schools.
"Although HB 70 state takeovers of school districts is thankfully not a local problem for my county, we are close enough to see that the volatility and uncertainty they breed is counter-productive to improving the public education system,” said Rep. Hambley. He added, "National studies over the last decade have shown that school districts are doubtful to see much improvement where there is political or administrative turmoil, especially when the changes are made by the state rather than by locally elected leaders."
Currently, ten school districts in Ohio have received one or two failing grades on their state report cards and are at high risk of falling under control of an academic stress commission. Those districts include:
- Ashtabula City Schools
- Canton City Schools
- Columbus City Schools
- Dayton Public Schools
- Euclid City Schools
- Lima City Schools
- Mansfield City Schools
- North College Hill City Schools
- Painesville City Schools
- Toledo City Schools
An amendment to HB 70 enacted in the last General Assembly (Am Sub SB 216) requires the state superintendent to review all policies and procedures regarding academic distress commissions and issue a report to the General Assembly by May 1, 2019. The General Assembly must have time to adequately evaluate that report and make relevant changes to the current law that mandates the state-led takeover by ODE of these academically-challenged districts.
The proposed legislation by Rep. Smith and Rep. Hambley will provide an immediate and decisive cessation of state takeovers, returning control of Ohio’s school districts to local officials while the General Assembly considers a better solution to school restructuring.