School bill must not be passed hastily

Some school districts in Ohio, including several in larger cities, are failing students badly.

It is difficult to imagine how parents would react to a local school system with a 67.7 percent four-year high school graduation rate — but that is the number state officials report for the East Cleveland City School District.

A few years ago, state legislators proclaimed they had enough of failing schools. They approved a system whereby the state could take over and run a district where performance fell under certain levels.

Under that takeover law, a failing local school district’s board of education can have its power limited severely. Special five-member commissions take over.

This happened in the Youngstown City School District.

In fact, it was Youngstown School District’s consistent academic struggles that triggered passage of that law, House Bill 70. That legislation and its massive amendment on school takeovers was passed within hours after being introduced on the final day of the 2015 legislative session.

It allows “CEOs” to be hired to control the district. Their power is enormous, extending even to the ability to cancel contracts with union employees and close school buildings as they see fit.

In 2015, we supported the measure because we realized something new and innovative, even drastic, needed to be attempted to turn around failing school districts.

Sadly, statistics show House Bill 70 has not worked. The Columbus Dispatch last week cited a lack of improvement in several taken-over districts, including Youngstown.

Now, legislators are considering changes to make the takeover law more effective or, perhaps, to scrap it and try something different. Lawmakers hope to have something in place by June 30.

We agree that, again, a new approach is needed. This time, however, it must not be crafted in haste.

Tens of thousands of Ohio children are not being served adequately by their schools — and that must change.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)