State School Board Members Worry Youngstown Takeover is all about Charters

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In one month Ohio House Bill 70 will take effect and the state will take control of Youngstown City Schools.

Democrats on the state board of education see the move as another in a series by the Kasich administration to promote charter schools.

They wanted answers at this week's board meeting in Columbus.

Legislators passed the bill in near secrecy in June with no public debate.  What it will establish is a 5 member Academic Distress Commission with a three member majority chosen by the state school superintendent.

That group then appoints a CEO with extraordinary powers.  He could not only change the collective bargaining agreement with teachers but also create or contract with charter schools.

State school board member Patricia Bruns – a Democrat -- says bypassing local elected officials including the school board is unconstitutional.

"Their idea is to take over the schools, dismantle what’s there, and dole them out to private, for-profit charters.”

At this week’s board meeting, member Mary Rose Oakar said she has received piles of letters from people around the state afraid of a similar takeover of their local schools in favor of charter schools .  She asked Department of Education official Lonny Rivera how it was legal to eliminate a locally elected school board.

"I’ve never heard of erasing somebody’s election in that matter.  So maybe I’m wrong about it unless they did some conduct problem or something you can kick somebody out of their position.”

Rivera, a former school superintendent at Oregon City Schools near Youngstown,  answered that his department is just trying to help improve failing districts in what he called a "noble" effort.

“For me, if you’re going to lead people you’re going to need to get all kinds of individuals working together and not have it adversarial because those people are still representative. But, I also know that sometimes the adults can be the problem and sometimes they’ll stand in the way of allowing certain things to happen.”

Youngstown teachers and Democratic legislators have filed suit to stop House Bill 70 from taking effect.   Senator Joe Schiavoni and Representative Michelle Lapore-Hagan say they’ll introduce their own Youngstown bailout plan next week.

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