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Published: Thursday, June 20, 2019 @ 3:59 PM
COLUMBUS — A controversial new state takeover plan for low-scoring schools, which had multiple long hearings in the Senate, was left out of the budget bill that the Senate passed Thursday.
But the Senate did not adopt the Ohio House’s language ending state takeovers of struggling schools, either. That means a conference committee will have to reconcile the differences in the two bills next week.
JUNE STORY: Senate weighs new school takeover proposal
Dayton Public Schools is the only district in the state currently at risk of a September takeover if its overall report card grade stays an “F.”
Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said the legislature could still end up with a wide range of changes in conference committee.
“We feel there’s a lot to work out,” Lehner said Thursday. “Basically what we’re making sure is that there’s space to work that out in (in conference committee).”
Ranking Democratic member of the Senate Vernon Sykes criticized that move, calling it “a tragedy” that the Senate did not “provide relief and a better strategy to assist our schools that are threatened by the mismanagement of our Academic Distress Commissions. … We’re just kicking the can a little further down the road.”
Three northeast Ohio school districts have been taken over by Academic Distress Commissions in the past few years, and there was widespread agreement this spring – from teachers, the state superintendent and legislators of both parties — that the existing format didn’t work well.
Ohio House approach
On May 1, the Ohio House passed HB 154, which was folded into the House’s version of the budget bill. The House language would repeal existing state takeover law and dissolve the three Academic Distress Commissions that are currently running the Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland districts, returning control to those local school boards.
It would require that district school boards establish an improvement team for any individual school that receives an overall “F” on the state report card, starting in summer 2020. The team would be required to “conduct a performance audit, develop and finalize and improvement plan, and submit the plan to the district board for its approval,” according to Ohio’s Legislative Service Commission.
But the district wouldn’t have to begin implementing that plan unless a school gets a second overall “F,” and the amended bill does not mandate “community learning center” supports that were required in the original document, making them an option instead, according to the LSC.
Senate weighed version
The state takeover bill the Senate considered was created by a work group Lehner assembled. It would have required districts that get an overall “F” on the state report card to spend at least two years working together with an outside consultant and a “transformation board” to discover “root causes” of under-performance and get the district moving in the right direction. Only if that failed would an ADC take over.
Lehner acknowledged that any takeover program would need better local involvement than the ADC system has had. She said it would also need a series of smaller benchmarks to indicate whether a district is moving in the right direction, rather than broad test scores and report card grades.