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Ohio senator issues report recommending end to academic distress commissions

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An Ohio Senate subcommittee’s minority report calls for an end to academic distress commissions.

Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, released the Senate Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee on the biennial budget. In it, she calls for an end to academic distress commissions and a focus on support for underserved students.

“It’s not up for debate. Without the buy-in from teachers and community members, local school districts will not improve,” Fedor, who is a former educator, said in a Senate news release. “The plans outlined in House Bill 154 addressing accountability, district leadership and community feedback should be added to the state budget.”

Her report noted the subcommittee has heard conflicting testimony on the success of distress commissions, but said local buy-in is the key to district improvement.

“As legislators representing each of our communities and schools, you must ask yourself: do you support local control?” she wrote. “Do you believe in the people in your community to select their local leaders and to make decisions for their own children?”

Fedor has been a vocal opponent of House Bill 70, the 2015 law that allowed the state takeover of Lorain, Youngstown and East Cleveland schools. Toledo Schools is one of 10 other districts that could fall under the state mandate within the next two years due to failing grades on the state report card.

The report also called for changes to the state’s “dysfunctional” school funding formula, graduation requirement changes being broken out into its own legislation and upholding safeguards for education standards in charter schools following the ECOT scandal.

HB 154, which was co-sponsored by state Reps. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, and Don Jones, R-Freeport, would dissolve all current academic distress commissions and create new systems to support low-performing districts based on building-level improvement plans.

Language based on HB 154 was added to the budget passed by the House on May 1, which is now under consideration in the Senate. Gov. Mike DeWine must sign a spending plan by June 30.

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

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