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Nathan Manning questions state superintendent on House Bill 70

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    Ohio Sen. Nathan Manning

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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COLUMBUS — State Sen. Nathan Manning alluded to problems in his district during a Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday.

Manning, R-North Ridgeville, questioned the state’s commitment to local control as it relates to academic distress commissions during the first meeting of the 133rd General Assembly’s Senate Education Committee. He confirmed in an interview Thursday his questions were about Lorain Schools.

After a presentation by State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria on new curriculum standards, Manning’s questions alluded to problems in Lorain Schools under House Bill 70. Manning started by thanking DeMaria for attending the meeting — before noting it was something the superintendent was required to do. Manning asked DeMaria if he would have attended if not required to be at the meeting.

DeMaria said he and representatives from the Ohio Department of Education are always available at the committee’s request, and will be working together with this assembly on graduation requirements, discussions on state report card reforms and other assessment structures.

Manning replied, “I truly appreciate that and if you could pass that, I guess, philosophy along to other superintendents or even CEOs to meet with their boards a little more often, it would be greatly appreciated.”

Manning went on to question whether the Ohio Department of Education’s support for local-level decision-making was only for curriculum or did it extend to other education issues including “appointing someone to a distress commission.”

DeMaria appointed a new chairman to Lorain’s Academic Distress Commission on Tuesday. Randall Sampson, of Columbus, replaced Tony Richardson, who resigned from the position Jan. 21.

DeMaria’s answer did not directly address Academic Distress Commission appointments; instead he focused on the interplay between local, state and federal control of education. He said when state standards first came out, they took some local control away but was in the best interest of the state as a whole, a pattern repeated in assessment structures.

“We’ve had lots of discussions about local control and there’s always that role that the state plays in trying to figure out where does the state’s interest become important enough to compromise what previously might have been local control,” he said.

Manning said Thursday he wasn’t surprised by DeMaria’s lack of a direct answer on academic distress commissions.

“I didn’t expect him to maybe answer for House Bill 70 or Lorain Schools because he wasn’t there testifying (on that subject) on that day,” he said. “I just wanted to make a point that I don’t think things are going well with House Bill 70 and obviously we want to see some changes made hopefully in the near future.”

As a state representative, Manning voted against House Bill 70 in 2015, which established the state takeover process for underperforming districts. Manning said he and other legislators are working on both short- and long-term bipartisan solutions to House Bill 70 as takeovers loom in other districts.

“You’re putting somebody in a really tough position to be a CEO under these circumstances and I don’t know if anybody could do it successfully because of how it’s drafted,” he said. “… When you force something on a community, they’re not going to be appreciative and they’re not going to like it and now that’s what you’re seeing.”

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.

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