LORAIN — Lorain Schools will have to wait to be released from state control, with the budget slated to have a moratorium on the issue.
The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on the biennial budget today at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., respectively, after missing the June 30 deadline and coming up against the end of its interim budget. According to state Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, the two-year spending plan will include language to halt state takeovers, but not address the three districts currently under state control.
Instead, he said Sen. Larry Obhof, R- Montville Township, said legislators plan to pass House Bill 154 with senate amendments within 30 days.
“I don’t think it’s fair for (Lorain, Youngstown and East Cleveland), but I do think the writing is on the wall,” Manning said regarding the state takeover process.
House Bill 154, introduced by state Reps. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, and Don Jones, R-Freeport, would repeal and replace House Bill 70 — the controversial 2015 law that allowed the state takeover of Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland schools — with wraparound services, community learning centers and state supports for districts tailored at the building level. H.B. 154 passed the House as a standalone bill, as well as part of the House-passed version of the budget bill. After hours of discussion in committee, it was removed from the budget by the Senate.
State Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said she was disappointed the Conference Committee couldn’t reach an agreement to eliminate House Bill 70.
“I feel at least somewhat relieved with the fact that the Senate will now take up (House Bill) 154, which they should have done before,” she said. “I can understand that they didn’t like everything about it, there were things I didn’t like about it. But, that’s why we have amendments — find a solution. They were so busy trying to come up with their own plan that unfortunately nothing got done, expect the moratorium, which helps out everybody but the three.”
She noted the timeline to pass House Bill 154 may be later than initially thought — as legislators will go into recess once the budget is passed and be out through mid-September. While committee meetings and interested party meetings still can happen, there will be no voting until the session resumes in the fall. If the bill moves through and is passed by the end of September without an emergency clause, it would take 90 days after that to go into effect — meaning Lorain would have to wait until the second half of the school year for the change.
She said the amendments to H.B. 154 could include sections from Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering’s plan, which was discussed at an education committee meeting — including bringing in outside companies to help struggling school districts identify problems by working with teachers and administrators.
“I think we all need to look at why aren’t they improving and what can we do to help them,” she said. “Maybe we have to look at other states to get that answer, I don’t know.”
Lorain school board reaction
At Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, President Mark Ballard brought up the pending legislation. While the move isn’t “perfect” for Lorain, he’s relieved other school districts will be protected from state takeover.
“We’re one step closer to victory for our district and other districts around the state, and I’m very, very happy for the districts who no longer have to go through what we’ve had to go through,” he said. “They all said that it’s a horrendous law and a terrible law and all those good things. … They took us in in a hurry, they’re trying to walk us out slow.”
Under House Bill 70, Ashtabula, Canton, Columbus, Dayton, Euclid, Lima, Mansfield, North College Hill, Painesville and Toledo were slated for state takeover within the next two years if their report card scores did not improve. Cleveland Schools, though failing, are exempt from the provision as they fall under their own plan, House Bill 525.
Board member Tim Williams agreed.
“As far as the state moving, based on the resistance, based on the mobilized efforts, it’s been really quick,” he said. “This is quick in terms of legislative change … it’s still slow to us, but in the context this is moving very, very fast.”
He added the issue could still cost Lorain Schools its renewal levy. The district has a $3.1 million renewal levy expiring Jan. 1. The last chance for the issue to come before voters is the November ballot — with issues having to be certified by Aug. 7.
“Their timing has never been relative to anything that happens in education,” Williams said. “So here we are again, even as I think about our levy, we have a certain number of days to make our decision and we don’t have the trust that says there’s going to be local input in decision making because we know what’s happened without local input or oversight.”
Gayle Manning noted she received a text that the Senate Education Committee plans to meet throughout the next month to discuss Academic Distress Commissions.
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