State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) today issued the following statement regarding last-minute legislative approval of the governor’s proposal to restructure the Youngstown City School system which was included in House Bill 70, a bill originally designed to make Community Learning Centers an official state education model:

“Fast-tracking a takeover of Youngstown City Schools prevents our community from coming together in a constructive way to chart a course for our children to succeed. Frustration in the Mahoning Valley cannot and should not be replaced by what could amount to a power grab from Columbus outsiders.

“Though I am pleased the legislature seems to be expressing a political will to tackle the challenges our community faces, Columbus needs to respect the fact that local education decisions should be made in consultation with parents, teachers, regional lawmakers, business leaders and local education officials. In our unique and diverse community, the challenges we face are equally unique and diverse. The economic hurdles our families and children experience are real, and those challenges contribute to a demanding educational environment that few other areas of the state understand.

“From the first day I took office, I expressed concerns that Columbus would try to shut down Youngstown schools and centralize power with an unaccountable and less transparent governing structure that moves children to failing, for-profit charter schools. I took the governor at his word that this would not be the case, but here we are today faced with what appears to be exactly that.

“In the coming weeks our community will have the opportunity to participate in meetings about transitioning our school system to a holistic community-based learning model that truly accounts for our unique and diverse challenges. I urge all interested parties to participate and stand with me in offering practical alternatives that will put our children first by preparing them to succeed inside and outside of the classroom. They are the future leaders of our community and deserve nothing less than a thoughtful, community-based plan for their success.”

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