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Lorain's Democratic party passes resolution calling for end of HB 70

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    Lorain Schools CEO David Hardy, Jr., left, Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer and Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera speak at 19th annual Speak up, Speak out at Lorain City Hall Jan. 12.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE FILE

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LORAIN — The city’s Democratic party unanimously passed a resolution Thursday calling for local control to be returned to Lorain Schools.

The resolution opposes House Bill 70, the 2015 bill that put the academically challenged district under state control, and calls for local control to be returned before the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

Lorain Democratic Party chairman Paul Adams said the resolution came from a “groundswell” within the party.

“As a party we have been watching what is going on with the schools. Obviously it’s an important issue for many of our party members, as many of them are elected officials and people who are involved in the community,” he said. “But recently, just over the last few months, we’ve seen a grassroots movement that is putting a lot of pressure on the General Assembly down there in Columbus, and this resolution kind of came out of that — of us wanting to be part of and encourage that ongoing grassroots opposition to this bill. And I think that’s the reason why you’re seeing so much bipartisan work that’s going on down in Columbus now in the new General Assembly because of the complaints that are coming from residents of Lorain.”

The resolution will be sent to representatives in Columbus at a later date, Adams said.

The resolution supports House Bill 154, introduced by Reps. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, and Don Jones, R-Freeport. Their bill would repeal the current state takeover law and replace it with options for low-performing districts to receive support — not edicts — from the state.

The resolution reads, in part, “HB 70 has fundamentally created a conflicting structure of leadership between the elected school board and the appointed Academic Distress Commission. This unworkable structure has permitted the administration to fail to communicate and work with the elected school board even after Mayor (Chase) Ritenauer and Lorain City Council by resolution encouraged all sides to cease all acts of public disharmony and engage in the work of educating the students for Lorain City Schools.”

It goes on to note state takeover policies have failed to raise student and district achievement, while creating disruptions throughout the community.

“The Lorain City Democratic Party calls for a comprehensive solution that ensures all school districts currently under the devastating control of HB70 are returned to local control and no future school district in Ohio is subjected to the dysfunction caused by this bill.”

Tensions have grown between the district and city administration, with pointed emails exchanged between CEO David Hardy and Ritenauer recently, as well as ongoing disputes between the school board and CEO. Both Mark Ballard, school board president, and Ritenauer are members of the Lorain City Democratic Party, but Adams said the resolution was not prompted by any one member.

“The resolution came through the party from our party members, and the mayor supports the resolution, but it did not come from his request or any elected official’s request,” he said. “This kind of came from leadership in the party and the kind of general membership of the party.”

The second hearing of House Bill 154, as well as House Bill 127, which would put a moratorium on further takeovers, is 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Ohio House of Representatives’ Primary and Secondary Education Committee in Columbus.

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

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