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HB 154: First hearing held on bill to end takeovers

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A bill to end state takeovers had its first hearing Tuesday evening.

House Bill 154, introduced by state Reps. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, and Don Jones, R-Freeport, had sponsor testimony to the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee. The bill would dissolve all current academic distress commissions, repeal House Bill 70, and create new systems to support low-performing districts.

Miller and Jones’ bill is one of three circulating the General Assembly regarding academic distress commissions. House Bill 127 would put a moratorium on the state taking over any other struggling district and Senate Bill 110 attempts to return some local control to Lorain. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has also said he is open to reviewing House Bill 70. Initially dubbed the “Youngstown Plan,” HB 70 outlines the process for state takeover of low-performing districts.

Miller’s testimony outlines the need for an end to state takeovers and a “framework for struggling buildings to utilize state expertise and forge their own path to success.”

Outlining the passage of HB 70 in a single day, after it was heavily amended from a bill to provide Community Learning Centers or wraparound services to low-performing districts, Miller stated the passage of an HB 701 is not what “we think of when we imagine how good public policy is created.”

His testimony went on to site State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria’s recent report on distress commissions and recommendations to improve the current model.

“I was heartened to read that (the Ohio Department of Education) recognizes a number of the same issues with HB 70 that those of us in Lorain and Youngstown have witnessed firsthand,” he said. “The report acknowledges that changes are needed, and offers up some potential solutions that track closely with our bill.”

In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Miller said HB 154 allows for communities to decide what would be best to improve their districts, be it implementing Community Learning Centers or allowing districts to keep some changes made under the current model.

He said they received mostly positive feedback on the legislation, which would overturn the 2015 law in its entirety as compared with more piece-meal approaches of other legislation.

“There was some good comments made by the committee regarding the need for this and the understanding that House Bill 70 did not end like it started and they’re happy to see it return to what it was supposed to be, local control turnaround of school districts that are low-performing,” he said.

The key to HB 154 is flexibility, allowing schools to create a plan that best fits their needs to get out of academic distress, Miller said.

“We expect to drop a sub bill in place of the one that we’re giving testimony on (Tuesday) because that helps to clean up some language and improve upon the second potion of our bill, which is the replace part. We want to make sure that any ambiguity that may be in the bill regarding how districts should exit the academic distress commission-CEO model and recommendations on how to move forward (is cleared up).”

Miller expects language for HB 154 will be finalized this week and hopes proponent testimony could be as soon as Tuesday — coinciding with the Ohio Education Association’s educator lobby day. Miller said an amendment also could be proposed, as more people begin to work on the legislation.

“I think when they (Committee members) hear on the second hearing testimony from different interested parties, proponents of the bill we’re offering, I think a lot more questions will come then,” Miller said. “Because there will be people that are in it and live it and understand what destruction and distraction the academic distress commissions have done under the CEO model.”

He said he hopes to have proponent testimony from representatives from Lorain, Youngstown and East Cleveland.

To keep up to date on when the next hearing is, visit ohiohouse.gov or follow Miller on Facebook or Twitter.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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