HB 154 passes Ohio House, now to Senate

Staff report


House Bill 154 passed without amendment in the Ohio House of Representatives by a vote of 82-12.

Now it will head to the Ohio Senate.

HB 154, should it pass both houses and be signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, would restore local control of school districts taken over under the authority of House Bill 70.

HB 70, also referred to as the Youngstown Plan, was signed into law by former Gov. John Kasich in July 2015 as an effort to improve the academic performance of failing or struggling public school districts.

In Youngstown, the legislation enabled a state-appointed academic distress commission to hire CEO Krish Mohip to lead the city school district. The bill gives Mohip complete operational, managerial and instructional control. Mohip refers to the elected board of education as an advisory panel, and his hirings and initiatives to try and improve academic performance and improve efficiencies have met with resistance from the local board, which has mounted a legal challenge.

In February, the commission learned from school district officials that the district has developed a communication plan which includes social media.

Other efforts are streamlining educational evaluations, aligning building improvement plans with district plans, improving professional development and ensuring consistent messages regarding expectations.

Also, the district is working heavily on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.

Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, who helped develop the Youngstown Plan, said he thinks the intentions of HB 70 were fine but there is always room for improvement.

“It’s good to see how we can do better,” he said. “I do feel everyone’s trying to see how we can provide best opportunities for our state students.”

But state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, maintained: “Local control is a foundational principle of public education in Ohio. ... HB 154 honors that principle by once again empowering residents and the school board members they elect to work together, with advice and counsel from the Ohio Department of Education, to improve failing schools.

“But we all know that is not enough. Districts like Youngstown, Lorain, East Cleveland and others across the state face incredibly difficult challenges that must be addressed in the years ahead. I appreciate that this process has seen the light of day, as opposed to the last time when this was done in secret.”

She continued to say that school takeovers have been bad for students, districts and Ohio.