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State review of Youngstown's Academic Distress Commission returns troubling failings

Lawmakers continue push for statewide moratorium on state takeovers of local schools
June 15, 2018
Democrat Newsroom

Nearly three years after the passing of House Bill 70 in the 131st General Assembly, which granted the state-appointed Academic Distress Commission (ADC) the ability to takeover failing school districts, the legitimacy of the distress commission, has come into question with a new state review of the Youngstown City School District.

According to the spring review by the Ohio Department of Education, the district’s ADC is failing key state education standards, from fiscal management to student support and curriculum delivery. The state’s review also says the Youngstown ADC doesn’t have a comprehensive professional development plan, lacks a district-wide communication plan, and is missing “instructional supports” for students with disabilities. The report calls for more shared accountability among building administrators too.

“Mounting evidence is bringing together lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to freeze state takeovers of our local schools,” said Smith. “We’re close to including language to that effect in a soon-to-pass bill and, less interparty political pressure or closed door deals, most Republican lawmakers seem ready to join us in taking a hard look at what’s really going on in education.”

State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) have a pending amendment to Senate Bill 216 to put a three-year moratorium on the state takeover of local schools, to give the legislature an opportunity to develop alternatives for failing school districts.

“We need a pause to figure out how the Academic Distress Commissions are affecting the quality of education of our children and to take into account the opinion of the community,” said the lead Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). “We’ve had constituents from several districts voice their profound concern about the unchecked power that House Bill 70 gives CEOs They should not be able to make decisions unilaterally, as education is a public service and requires transparency, accountability and community feedback in order to function in the best interest of our children.”

The bill and amendment are currently awaiting a vote in the House Education and Career Readiness Committee. Republican House Education Committee Chairman Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) previously broke with House rules and abruptly ended committee when it became apparent the Democratic lawmakers’ proposed moratorium was likely to be included in the bill with broad bipartisan support.

The Education and Career Readiness Committee will meet next Tuesday, June 19.