House Democrats yesterday announced the House passage of House Bill (HB) 154, a bipartisan effort to end state takeovers of local schools and restore control to local education officials. The bill comes amid questions of accountability, transparency and lackluster results from district takeovers in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland.
“I’m glad to see my colleagues recognize that the state takeover plan was not working as intended and quickly set about to fix it in a bipartisan manner,” said Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma). “We now need to focus on other priorities to help our public schools work better for our students and restore Ohio’s promise for future generations.”
HB 154 would dissolve existing Academic Distress Commissions, prevent the creation of new ones, and require local boards of education to establish improvement plans for low-performing schools, including adding more wraparound services like after-school enrichment and social and health services.
The school takeover law, which passed as an eleventh-hour amendment to HB 70 in 2015, has come under fire as unelected academic distress commissions headed by out-of-district CEOs have taken over duties of democratically-elected school board members in East Cleveland, Lorain and Youngstown, which critics say aren’t working.
Under the current state takeover system, 10 more districts are in danger of being stripped of local control, including Ashtabula, Canton, Columbus, Dayton, Euclid, Lima, Mansfield, North College Hill, Painesville and Toledo.
Democrats held a series of meetings with school officials, administrators and education advocates throughout the legislative process. After receiving bipartisan support in the House, the bill moves to the Senate for further consideration.