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Ohio House passes spending plan ending school takeovers

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The Ohio House passed a spending plan Thursday that includes language to repeal and replace House Bill 70, the state’s controversial school takeover law passed in 2015.

Initially, the budget (House Bill 166) included language from Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria regarding academic distress commissions — much of which either kept the state takeover process the same or gave more power to DeMaria. The new language is based on House Bill 154, which was co-sponsored by state Reps. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, and Don Jones, R-Freeport. HB 154 would replace academic distress commissions and other state mandates in struggling districts with support from the Ohio Department of Education.

HB 154 passed the House 83-12 on May 1 and is headed to the Senate Education Committee for discussion.

In a news release, Miller said Democrats in the House have fought to strengthen the budget ahead of its move to the Senate.

“While there are still areas that need improvement, it includes key provisions that invest in the children of our state and their education,” he said. “That starts with ending the disastrous state takeover of public schools that have wreaked havoc in places like Lorain. The ideas we brought forward with HB 154 have been incorporated, restoring local control over schools and putting in place a process for bottom-up, building-based school improvement.”

Under Miller and Jones’ language, all current academic distress commissions would be dissolved. Starting July 1, 2020, buildings that have received an overall F on its state report card would be designated as “in need of improvement” by the state superintendent and a school improvement team would be established. That team would be made of administrators, teachers and community members from the district, with oversight from the local school board. That team would conduct a performance audit and create a plan to increase achievement, which would be implemented after the building’s second failing grade. If a building continues to earn failing grades, more support from the Ohio Department of Education and state superintendent will be given — but the local school board will remain in control of the district. Community learning centers also could be developed in underperforming districts to try to help boost student outcomes.

Lorain Board of Education president Mark Ballard said he is proud of Miller’s work in Columbus to get the new language added to the budget.

“We need our community to call our senators and every senator in the Statehouse to plead for them to do the right thing and support the language as written,” he said.

Per law, the spending plan must be signed by the governor by June 30.

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


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