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Ohio Lawmakers Want To Stop State Takeovers Of Struggling School Districts

Columbus City Schools District Office.
Nick Evans
Columbus City Schools District Office.

A bipartisan pair of Ohio House lawmakers are floating a plan that would do away with state takeovers of struggling school districts - a prospect currently facing Columbus City Schools.

The measure, which has yet to be filed, would roll back provisions requiring the state education department to intervene if a district earns a failing grade for three straight years. In a press release, state Rep. Joe Miller (D-Amherst) called state takeovers a "disaster."

"In each case, the Academic Distress Commission has been unable to work effectively alongside the district’s teachers, school leaders and community at large," Miller wrote.

Academic Distress Commissions have been around since 2007, and are made up of appointees selected by state and local education officials to draft improvement plans for struggling districts. Among other changes, a 2015 required commissions tap a CEO with broad authority over staffing, instruction, and the budget.

In the first year of overall district grades, Columbus City Schools earned an F. That means, without improvement, the district will face a takeover after the 2019/20 school year.

In a statement, district officials noted that they haven’t seen the bill, but that “we know the best decisions in a child’s education are always made at the local level.”

Miller’s co-sponsor, state Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport), echoes the emphasis on local control.

“Academic Distress Commissions have not only taken away school and community pride, but have proven to be unsuccessful in their mission,” Miller wrote.

Critics of state intervention point to previous takeovers in Lorain and Youngstown that have yet to produce a major turnaround in student achievement.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.