A new Republican-backed bill is being considered that would dramatically undo a major and controversial education initiative that was supported and signed by former Gov. John Kasich.
In 2015, Ohio was facing an epidemic of failing schools. An Ohio Department of Education report for 2014-2015 found that only six of the 607 school districts received an “A rating,” while the majority averaged a “C.” In response to this growing epidemic, Kasich backed a controversial solution.
The “Youngstown Plan,” as it’s called, established a system by which any school that receives consistently failing grades would immediately be taken over by a five-person “Academic Distress Commission.” This commission then appoints a “CEO,” who has “complete operational, managerial and instructional control of the district.” This authority includes the ability to hire or fire individuals at will, close schools and allocate funds.
On June 24, 2015, House Bill 70 (HB 70) was rewritten, introduced, and passed by both the House and Senate in one day. It was signed later that year. At the time of its passage, a Kasich spokesperson stated the governor’s feelings:
Gov. Kasich had been vocal about the need to improve the Youngstown School system in light of the fact that they had been failing for nearly 10 years and students were being deprived of the education they deserved.
“Some people said it moved too fast; I think it moved too slow. Thank God this has happened,” Kasich replied when pressed on the issue later, specifically addressing the truncated passage through the Ohio Legislature. Now, after several school districts have come under the control of Academic Distress Commissions and failed to see significant improvements, some state senators have decided to act.
Senate Bill 110 (SB 110), introduced last month, will make extensive changes to the existing program, while still keeping the commission in place. The bill would make the CEO and all of his decisions more accountable to the local district and requires that a majority of the board members be local officials.
“You can’t just spring something on a community or district without any input from them and expect them to accept it. They want a seat at the table, which they deserve to have,” Ohio State Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) said in support of the bill.
Under DeWine’s proposed 2020-2021 Executive Budget, the program would continue to exist, but with some reforms.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].
Photo “John Kasich” by Michael Vadon. CC BY-SA 4.0. Background Photo “John Kasich” by John Kasich.