In July of 2015, Ohio House Bill 70, a forward-thinking education bill involving community schools with wrap-around services, was hijacked with a 66-page amendment and turned into a school takeover bill, rushed to a vote, and quickly signed by Governor John Kasich. It was nicknamed the Youngstown Plan, because it was designed specifically to take over poverty-stricken Youngstown City Schools first, but any district that had an Academic Distress Commission could be taken over under the new rules.
HB 70 allows the state to step in to run “failing” school districts by creating a new CEO position, allowing mayors to appoint school board members, and giving the CEO power to override parts of union contracts.
Senator Joe Schiavoni and Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan attempted to lessen the strictest requirements of Ohio’s school takeover law, HB 70, by introducing companion bills that both died at the end of 2016 having not even gotten the initial hearings they deserved. Mandy Jablonski, a parent activist from Lorain County Parents Supporting our Children and Teachers, is calling on them to work with her House Representative Nathan Manning and Senator Gayle Manning, two Republicans on their respective Education Committees who both voted NO on HB 70 out of concern for what it would do to the districts they represent.
Although Governor Kasich has made it clear that he would veto any bill from Senator Manning that would give Lorain a safe harbor, Mandy is hopeful that with legislators working together in a bipartisan manner, they can get some relief to those districts affected by HB 70 and those that could be affected in the near future.
An overview of Senator Schiavoni’s bill that was proposed in October of 2015 can be found here and Representative Lepore-Hagan’s companion bill can be found here. Please read them and consider joining Jablonski in contacting these four legislators, as well as your own, and asking that they reintroduce these bills during the current General Assembly. Mandy’s messages are presented below:
MANDY’S EMAIL TO SENATOR MANNING:
Welcome back! I am sure things are really picking up, so I will try to be brief. During the last General Assembly, Senator Schiavoni put forth a bill (SB 230) that would lessen some of the strictest requirements in the Youngstown Plan. Unfortunately the bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee where it did not even get the hearings it required, so it died at the end of the year. As I know you are aware, the Lorain City Schools will be taken over by March 7th (thank you again for working so hard to try to fight that, by the way). I still find this very upsetting and I fear that the Elyria City Schools could be next. I obviously would like to avoid a takeover of the Elyria Schools, but should it come to that, I would like to at least know that I did everything I could to make it just a little bit more tolerable. As I have mentioned to you before, Senator Schiavoni mentioned reaching out to Republicans that had voted NO on HB 70. As you are one of them (again, thank you so much for that), I was wondering if there is a possibility of you and Senator Schiavoni working together to introduce something like his SB 230 bill in this new General Assembly. And as usual, if there is ever anything I can do to help with this, please let me know.
MANDY’S EMAIL TO SENATOR SCHIAVONI:
I was very disappointed to see your bill, that would have lessened some of the strictest requirements of HB 70, was sent to the Senate Finance Committee where it was left to die at the end of the year having never even received the three initial hearings it needed. I have been following the progression of the Youngstown Plan very closely since the day the bill passed. I am already very concerned about the lack of transparency taking place in the Youngstown City Schools with regards to CEO Mohip refusing to disclose just how much money is being spent on hiring new administrators and purchasing more technology, even when asked by members of the local school board about it. The public has a right to know what is involved in his plan.
Further, I recently learned that my neighbors in Lorain will be taken over by a new academic distress commission by March 7th of this year. While I find all of this very upsetting I cannot help but also be concerned that the district my son attends and my husband teaches in will be next. On the most recent report card our district, the Elyria City Schools, received a “D” on PI and an “F” on value-added progress. While I have no doubt that everyone here works very hard every day and we do indeed make progress, it may not be enough to stop a state takeover courtesy of the state’s perpetually changing, ever increasing rules.
In the Summer of 2015 you had said, at the first of one of your many, many community meetings about HB70, that you wanted to reach out to the Republicans who voted NO on HB 70 to try to work with them on a solution to this. I am proud to say that the Republican Senator who represents me, and is also on the Senate Ed committee, did vote NO on HB 70, which is something I will always be grateful for. Is there any possibility of you working with Senator Manning on a bipartisan compromise much like SB 230 that you had proposed in the last General Assembly? I believe that this course of action would be most likely to lead to success.
MANDY’S EMAIL TO REPRESENTATIVE MANNING:
Good afternoon and welcome back! I am sure you are already hard at work so I will make this brief. In October of 2015, Rep. Lepore-Hagan introduced HB 379 which was meant to be a companion bill to Senator Schiavoni’s SB 230. Both bills would lessen some of the strictest requirements of the Youngstown Plan by doing such things as changing the makeup of the new academic distress commission as well as who appoints them, limiting the power of the CEO with regards to collective bargaining agreements as well as other things, insisting that the CEO have an extensive background in education, changing the requirements for a district to transition out of academic distress from an overall “C” grade instead to a “C” on performance index or overall value-added score, and allowing for more transparency by insisting that all information relating to the commission be subjected to the Public Records Law. Unfortunately both bills died at the end of last year having not even gotten the initial hearings needed.
I am very upset at how HB 70 has been implemented thus far in Youngstown, I am worried about how this will affect the Lorain City Schools when they get taken over March 7th, and of course I am concerned that this could happen to Elyria next. In order to make this less burdensome for those already affected and to protect districts like Elyria in the future, I am hoping to convince you to work with Rep. Lepore-Hagan to perhaps reintroduce HB 379 or something similar. Of course I would rather HB 70 not exist at all, but I believe that if you and Rep. Lepore-Hagan can work together in a bipartisan fashion on this, we could see some positive changes in the worst aspects of HB 70.
MANDY’S EMAIL TO REPRESENTATIVE LEPORE-HAGAN:
Good afternoon! I wanted you to know that I was very impressed with the companion bills that you and Senator Schiavoni both proposed in your respective bodies of the General Assembly with regards to HB 70. I am fully supportive of everything in the bills as they would allow for more transparency, limit the powers of the CEO, and perhaps soften the harshest of requirements put forth in the Youngstown Plan. Of course I was disappointed that neither bills were given the hearings they deserved and instead died at the end of the year.
I have been following HB 70 closely from the very beginning. I am already concerned about how it is being implemented in Youngstown as the CEO seems very unconcerned about disclosing how he is spending funds- specifically on the hiring of new administrators and on new technology. With Lorain being taken over March 7th, and any district, including the Elyria City Schools where my son attends school and my husband teaches, possibly next, I am asking that you please consider working with Representative Nathan Manning to either reintroduce your bill, or something similar, with him. He was one of the few Republicans that voted NO on HB 70. He did so because he realized how devastating the bill could be to districts like the ones he represents.
If we could get legislators like the two of you to work together in a bipartisan manner to address this issue, I believe that we could be successful in lessening the very worst parts of HB 70 for those already affected and those who will be in the near future.
Please contact these four legislators, as well as your own, and ask that they reintroduce these bills during the current General Assembly.
Sen. Gayle Manning: SD13@senate.state.oh.us
Sen. Joe Schiavoni: SD33@senate.state.oh.us
Rep. Nathan Manning: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan: email@example.com
SAVE OUR SCHOOLS from Ohio’s School Takeover Law!