Today, a standing room only crowd packed McGuffey Elementary School in Youngstown for a public meeting hosted by Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), State Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Youngstown Mayor John McNally to discuss the Youngstown School Plan. Parents, teachers and community residents protested the plan contained in House Bill 70 that gives broad and unprecedented powers to an unelected Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to run the district.
“Today’s town hall demonstrated that our community cares deeply about our children and our public school system. Local education decisions should be made in consultation with parents, teachers, regional lawmakers, business leaders and local education officials – not by Columbus outsiders who do not understand our unique and diverse community,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “Community Learning Centers, included in the original legislation, offer a holistic learning model that bridges the gap between the classroom and the community. I look forward to proceeding in a constructive, inclusive manner to offer practical alternatives that that will put our children first by preparing them to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.”
House Bill 70 started out as legislation to establish Community Learning Centers in school districts across the state—a model for learning that has been successful in Cincinnati. But, the bill was amended at the last minute to include wholesale changes to the operation of academic distress commissions that oversee troubled school districts including Youngstown.
“We all agree that our children deserve the best education we can provide them,” said Senator Schiavoni. “But, this plan is flawed and the concerns expressed today show there was not enough public input in putting the plan together in the first place. This is our community and everyone, especially parents and teachers, should be part of the solution. One person should not be given the power to make all the decisions. We all need to work together to improve the Youngstown schools.”
HB 70 establishes an appointed Academic Distress Commission that hires a CEO to “exercise complete operational, managerial and instructional control of the district.” The CEO’s authority includes the following: replace administrators and staff, make staff reductions, set class sizes, determine curriculum and select instruction materials. In addition, the CEO has the power to suspend/alter collective bargaining contracts, reconstitute any school as a charter school or close a school entirely.
The plan also gives incentives for students to leave Youngstown schools by giving them vouchers to enroll in private schools and providing bonuses to school districts that accept Youngstown students.