LORAIN — School Board President Mark Ballard is calling on the new governor to put a stop to House Bill 70.
In a letter sent to Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday, Ballard calls House Bill 70 and the Academic Distress Commission it imposes “unconstitutional” and encourages the newly elected governor to eliminate the commission and require the Ohio Department of Education to “pursue innovative and transformational strategies to help improve struggling school districts.”
“Everybody’s hope is House Bill 70 will be abolished,” Ballard said. “It’s a terrible, terrible piece of legislation. But in the mean time if we have to live with it, there’s got to be some workarounds that we can come up with. … This thing is just set up for adults to argue and the kids, who are most important, are being kind of caught up into this battle and based on the results that we’ve gotten, in every district the report card has gotten worse.”
Prompted by the change in state leadership, and new faces on the district’s Academic Distress Commission, the letter requests a response from DeWine in the next two weeks. And if the board does not hear back, it plans to follow up.
“At this point we’re not going to be adversarial, we trust and believe he sees it for what it is and that he’s going to do the right thing,” Ballard said. “We just need someone to send help into these districts that have been taken over because it was very poorly planned. … We just want to start the conversation, but I actually want to sit down eye-to-eye and let him know and let him see some of the things that are going.”
His letter states he is being denied his right to fulfill his role as an elected board member because House Bill 70 has transferred local control to the district’s Academic Distress Commission.
“All the power of an entire district and finances of it have been put into the power of one person,” Ballard said. “And that’s just not the democratic system.”
Referencing DeWine’s education goals for the state: “educational excellence in every school, for every student,” according to his website, Ballard’s letter states those opportunities are not being afforded to Lorain students. “As a city that’s already struggling with replacing the steel mills which helped define this community for over a hundred years, we now have the difficulty of our once-proud public school system currently performing at its lowest level in our history,” he wrote to DeWine.
He said he plans to alert DeWine to the negative outcomes schools under state takeover face, including low teacher morale, the loss of “good administrators” and students “fleeing” the district via open enrollment. He said kids performing at high levels are finding ways to leave the district, leaving those without options or stuck in the area left in the school, which he calls “not a fair system.”
DeWine’s education policy, outlined during his campaign, plans to reduce standardized testing and create a more equitable funding system, though his website does not outline what that funding system may be. It also proposes increasing access to vocational programs and making college more affordable.
His plan did not reference House Bill 70.
“I just believe once it gets to the Supreme Court, now that they’ve agreed to listen to the argument, they’re going to see how unconstitutional this really is, so it’s going to happen on that level,” Ballard said. “But in the meantime, we’re 15 feet under water and we’re only 4-feet tall so I mean we’ve either got to hold our breath for a really, really long time or we’ve got to come up for air.”
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