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State reps. look to dissolve academic distress commissions in Ohio

Published By The Chronicle-Telegram on March 12, 2021
Gayle Manning In The News

Two state representatives are pushing for a remedy to the takeover of struggling schools.

Reps. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and Kent Smith, D-Euclid, testified on House Bill 100, which would abolish state takeovers of public school and return Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland schools to local control.

HB 100 would dissolve the academic distress commissions created by House Bill 70 — the 2015 law that outlined the takeover of the three districts — and prevent the creation of new commissions.

It does not outline a specific replacement for the academic distress model.

The bill also could impact EdChoice scholarships.

Currently, students in districts under state takeover qualify for EdChoice scholarships, allowing students to attend private schools. The scholarship program has come under fire before, with those against the program arguing it funnels money away from districts while still requiring public schools to foot the bill on certain services.

The bill would allow students in Lorain, Youngstown and East Cleveland schools already using vouchers to continue to do so, but it would preclude further first-time voucher awards.

House Bill 100 joins Rep. Joe Miller’s, D-Amherst, bill, House Bill 54, in attempting to dissolve academic distress commissions throughout the state. Miller’s bill would replace current ADCs with individualized, building-level improvement plans and state-provided supports.

These are far from the first time members of the Statehouse have looked to “fix” the controversial takeover law.

More than half a dozen bills in the previous General Assembly sought to end or change state takeovers of academically struggling schools in Ohio, with Smith, Manning, Miller and state Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, all putting their support behind one attempt or another before the session ended in December.

Recently while on a trip to Lorain Schools, state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, said legislators plan to look at a fix in the state’s biennium budget, which must be passed by June 30.

The initial budget bill includes a provision to prohibit the state superintendent from establishing any new academic distress commissions for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. It does not impact the three districts already under state control.

Legislators are again looking to tackle the state report card — which under House Bill 70 is used to place districts under state control. Reps. Phil Robinson, D-Solon, and Don Jones, R-Freeport, introduced House Bill 200 this week. It looks to eliminate the current A-F grading system and replace it with performance rates, and require the State Board of Education to establish criteria for those performance measures.

It also does away with overall building and district grades, and rates only each component.

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