Legislators push school privatization with little public input

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) –  A new effort by Governor John Kasich and state legislators could mean some big changes to Ohio school districts.

But some say legislators are bringing an overhaul to local schools, particularly with the effort to privatize what legislators define as “chronically failing schools.”

Academic distress commissions are the last call for “chronically failing school.” The commission works with these districts and their school boards.

The Senate Education Committee chair tells 2 NEWS a new plan would change that system.

“The academic distress commission has been redesigned and granted more powers,” State Senator Peggy Lehner (R- 6th District) explained.

Kettering Senator Lehner says Governor John Kasich requested she lead this effort, as is custom for committee chairs.

For schools that have failed 3 years in a row, primarily Youngstown School District, they’d see the most changes. The commission would have the power to privatize the district.

A C.E.O would be hired, and could remove the elected education board and suspend a union and some of its collective bargaining agreements.

For many education unions, they say this was a last-minute effort that shut out the public and union officials.

Senator Lehner introduced the amendment to House Bill 70 last Wednesday, and according to reports in about 12 hours, the bill was ready to send to Governor Kasich.

Asked whether “this a transparent process where unions and teachers and parents were able to comment on this new measure?”

The committee chair responded, “It’s been under discussion up in Youngstown apparently for some time with some of the leadership in the Youngstown area. It hasn’t received a full vetting at the state level per se and part of the reason for that is they’re trying to get this done and I think the governor felt that he needed to move quickly before significant opposition might arise.”

The Dayton Education Association Union President David Romick tells 2 NEWS that is the problem, there is opposition and it was shut out.

“This is a bill, we call a midnight bill sort of came in the night and was fast-tracked through without– well I can’t say without any– with very little opportunity for public input,” a charged-up Romick assured.

Romick’s passion against this amendment is partly due to the fact that Dayton Public Schools would be at risk for a C.E.O takeove.

The district has recently received F’s on its academic assessment report card. Should that continue into the 2017 school year, under this plan, Dayton’s board and union could be shut out from addressing the failing district’s problems.

The school district declined to interview with 2 NEWS on this subject. However, officials say their immediate concern is the upcoming school year.

Romick is thinking both short and long-term, who said  “We’re given one set of rules and recommendations and asked to follow them and then overnight the game changes.”

It’s why the union president believes the amendment and its plans, “It’s not productive and it’s not in the best interest of students.”

Despite these concerns, state legislators say the plan will work.

Governor Kasich’s office tells 2 NEWS he has not received the bill, as of Monday afternoon, and officials are unsure of when he may sign it.

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