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Legislators Disagree on How to Help Failing School Districts

photo of high school hallway
High School hallway

One of the many things that will have to be worked out this week with competing versions of the state budget is the future of the commissions that have managed the state takeovers of the Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland school districts which are some of the state’s largest districts.

The House budget dissolved academic distress commissions and replaced them with a new model.  The Senate version kept them while other options are considered. Senate Education Chair Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) said leaving those failing districts to figure things out for themselves is dangerous.

“If they had the ability to do this on their own, they would have done it,” Lehner said.

But House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) said those commissions have been, in her words, nothing but problems.

“And will continue to be a problem if we don’t do something about it, and do something about it soon,” Sykes said. 

Districts can be taken over if they receive failing grades on their state report cards three years in a row. Dayton received Fs for two years. And nine other districts, including Canton, Columbus and Toledo, got their first F last year.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.