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Commissioner says he's lost faith there will be any legislative action on state takeovers

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    Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy



ELYRIA — Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy said Wednesday he has lost faith the Ohio Senate will take action on House Bill 70 — the law that allows for state takeover of failing school districts — any time soon.

The biennial budget, which includes language to repeal and replace the controversial bill, passed the House on May 1 and is in the Senate. The budget must be signed by the governor by June 30.

The 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 dissolve all current academic distress commissions and create new systems to support low-performing districts based on building-level improvement plans.

On March 6, county commissioners approved a resolution that said HB 70 is eroding the Lorain School District and urged Gov. Mike DeWine and state legislators to abandon it.

On Wednesday, Lundy urged legislators to take action before the end of the school year.

“I’ve said it to the governor’s office, the lieutenant governor’s office and legislators, and I’ll say it again publicly. … If you do not address this issue before the end of the school year, it is no longer (former Gov. John) Kasich’s issue, it is no longer the previous legislators’ issue, it is now your issue,” he said.

The Ohio State Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution against House Bill 70 last week. Lorain Schools CEO David Hardy — who was appointed to lead the district after state takeover — and others from the community testified in support of HB 70 to the Ohio Senate Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education session in Columbus later that same week.

If local control is not returned to Lorain Schools soon, Lundy said, it will cause both an academic and financial crisis. A school levy that generates more than $3 million a year and expires at the end of 2019 may be affected as the school board has said it will not put the renewal on the ballot while Hardy is in charge of the district.

Lundy said the community will need to act to speed up the process. Commissioner Sharon Sweda agreed with Lundy, hoping action is taken soon. Lundy and Sweda both are Democrats.

Lundy said he intends to speak with Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, about pushing the effort forward. Manning has introduced Senate Bill 110, Lorain-specific legislation that would give the city’s mayor an additional appointment to the district’s academic distress commission while removing one of the state’s appointees. The distress commission is currently comprised of one appointment by the mayor, one by the local school board and three by the state school board.

Contact Bruce Walton at (440) 329-7123 or Follow him on Facebook @BWalton440 or Twitter @BruceWalton.

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