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Teachers, Administrators And Parents Rally Against School Takeovers

A classroom at Cleveland's John Hay High School.
Ashton Marra

Dozens of people lined up to voice their opposition to state takeovers of local school districts through the so-called Academic Distress Commission. The Ohio Senate is considering legislation that could repeal and replace the system that has been in place since 2015.

Teachers, administrators and parents stood before the Senate Education Committee to support abolishing academic distress commissions and replacing them with community learning centers.

The first state takeover was in Youngstown. The law, HB70, was even dubbed the "Youngstown Plan."

Larry Ellis, president of the Youngstown Education Association, says the takeover diverted resources from programs that were working.

“Coaching and mentoring programs that were there to help students in the classroom were eliminated and made into administrative positions. Millions of dollars have been cut from the classrooms which directly impact our students,” Ellis says.

A few people testified in support of Academic Distress Commissions, including the outgoing Youngstown schools CEO Krish Mohi who says the district is shackled by former leadership who wants to keep the status quo.

The new plan, HB154, would help failing schools through what’s called the community learning centers model. The bill already passed the Ohio House.

Two other bills also address the takeover process. HB127 would prohibit the creation of any new academic distress commissions and SB110 modifies the current process with changes that give more power to local officials.

Through the current process, the state appoints a CEO to lead an academic distress commission when a school district receives an “F” grade on their report card three years in a row.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, Dayton City Schools received its second-consecutive “F” grade in 2018.

The following districts received their first overall “F” in 2018; Ashtabula City Schools, Canton City Schools, Columbus City Schools, Euclid City Schools, Lima City Schools, Mansfield City Schools, North College Hill City Schools, Painesville City Schools and Toledo City Schools.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.