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Lorain Schools joins legal fight against state takeover law

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LORAIN — The Lorain school board is joining the legal fight against a law which allowed the district to be taken over by the state.

At a meeting Monday night, the five-member body voted unanimously to join the Ohio School Boards Association Legal Assistance Fund’s amicus brief regarding the hold state House Bill 70 has over school districts in academic distress.

School board president Tony Dimacchia said the “friend of the court” brief allows the Lorain school district to support the litigation the Youngstown school district is sending to the Ohio Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

“It’s their lawsuit and by doing this we’re, in a way, putting ourselves in it as well,” he said. “If this gets traction, we want to be supporting Youngstown.”

The Youngstown and Lorain school districts are the only two in the state who have been affected by the full force of House Bill 70, which details the state takeover process.

According to the legislation, which was passed in 2015, districts with continuously low state report card scores are placed under academic distress and are placed under the purview of a state-appointed commission.

If the district’s scores do not improve after four years, the commission would be disbanded and a new one would be appointed, tasked with hiring a virtually all-powerful CEO who would have all of the powers of a superintendent and associated with a school board.

Critics of the legislation have expressed concerns about the law disenfranchising voters who elect school board members with essentially no authority except handling property tax issues.

Because the Youngstown and Lorain school districts were the only two in the state under academic distress when the law was passed, they are the only two to have undergone a takeover.

However, that could be changing with districts like Dayton and Warrensville Heights that are a few years away of being placed under academic distress, kick starting the process outlined in House Bill 70.

Dimacchia said he spoke with Rick Lewis, the head of OSBA, who said there were three other districts joining the amicus brief but he couldn’t speak to which ones at the school board meeting Monday.

Contact Katie Nix at 440-329-7129 or knix@chroniclet.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @KatieHNix.


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