State Trying to Avert Takeover of Cleveland Schools

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Under Ohio law, if a school district fails to meet standards and shows no improvement for four years, the district falls under the control of what’s known as an “academic distress commission.”

It’s a five-member board with the power to fire administrative personnel and approve budgets, among other things. Three voting members are appointed by the state superintendent, and two by the head of the local school board.

Cleveland appeared to meet the criteria after it received a failing grade on its recent report card. Here’s education department spokesman John Charlton, speaking this morning.

CHARLTON: “From the report cards and the annual yearly progress, they’re not getting the job done. They need to do a better job.”

By the afternoon, the education department and the Cleveland school district put out separate statements saying they were open to options other than a distress commission.

The district says the state hasn’t yet sent a letter that would start the process of a takeover. And even if the letter were sent, the statement says, it doesn’t automatically mean forming a distress commission.

The Ohio Department of Education says Cleveland’s school transformation plan, which received the blessing of the state legislature last year, will "weigh heavily" on how the department decides to go forward. That plan gives administrators more power to fire teachers and allows the school CEO to cut or increase funding for schools.

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