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Lawmakers concerned school rating overhaul leaves Youngstown schools behind

Say House Bill 591 unfairly targets certain districts
April 13, 2018
Democratic Newsroom

State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland) and Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today expressed concern about House Bill (HB) 591, a Republican-led effort to once again overhaul the state’s school report card system. The bill would leave current triggers in place for schools that are under or near academic distress—a move the lawmakers say unfairly targets districts in academic distress like Youngstown, Lorain and at least 22 other districts across the state.

“I’m concerned once again the Legislature is changing the rules by which educators measure success, and these changes every few years create confusion and chaos in districts already fighting for survival,” Rep Boccieri said. “We see it from Columbus with changes to the funding formula creating chaos for districts trying to pay for a quality education, now we see it once again with shifting standards.”

The bill sponsor, state Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), recently commented on the provisions within HB 591 that keep the controversial triggers in place:

"I did not want to change accountability triggers in current Ohio law…If I say that we want to extend safe harbor and said districts wouldn't be sanctioned this year, or community schools wouldn't be shut down, very quickly this situation would turn into 'Is this a bill to protect ECOT?' or 'Is this a bill to lower accountability standards?'

“The way I'm dealing with that issue is that I'm actually letting [the legislature] decide. I think that letter grades are suspect and should not exist and that many sanctions assigned to school districts across the state are invalid—that applies to community and public schools. The decision about how [legislators are] going to map the accountability system to a new report card system is a decision that [we as legislators have] to make."

Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan said, “I support stronger accountability of for-profit charter schools, they need to be on the same standards as traditional public schools. I’m concerned that standards change for everyone else except schools in academic distress under the old reporting system.”

HB 591 would repeal the state’s letter-grade school report card and replace it with a series of seven separate performance measures. The bill would also modify existing report cards for career-technical schools and eliminate several annual reports and non-graded measures. The plan would also maintain the existing report card system for the purposes of implementing controversial accountability triggers, like the administration of academic distress commissions and school restructuring. This exception affects 24 districts across the state, including Youngstown City Schools.

Committee members from Toledo and Dayton brought up bipartisan concerns about the academic distress commission that took control of Youngstown City Schools and Lorain. They noted there are 22 districts heading toward similar situations citing unfairness with leaving struggling districts under an older model.

Rep. Duffey said he himself did not believe that such "school takeovers" are effective in the long-term, saying that districts generally end up in their original state when business interest dies down in the community. 

“Republican lawmakers in the majority are now saying they don’t believe long-term takeovers by the state are effective and we need to know what course of action the community must take when they turn it back over to local control,” Rep. Lepore-Hagan added.

HB 591 is currently awaiting committee assignment where it will receive its initial hearings.